Physiological correlates of volunteering

René Bekkers, Sara H. Konrath, David H. Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


We review research on physiological correlates of volunteering, a neglected but promising research field. Some of these correlates seem to be causal factors influencing volunteering. Volunteers tend to have better physical health, both self-reported and expert-assessed, bettermental health, and perform better on cognitive tasks. Research thus far has rarely examined neurological, neurochemical, hormonal, and genetic correlates of volunteering to any significant extent, especially controlling for other factors as potential confounds. Evolutionary theory and behavioral genetic research suggest the importance of such physiological factors in humans. Basically, many aspects of social relationships and social activities have effects on health (e.g., Newman and Roberts 2013; Uchino 2004), as the widely used biopsychosocial (BPS) model suggests (Institute of Medicine 2001). Studies of formal volunteering (FV), charitable giving, and altruistic behavior suggest that physiological characteristics are related to volunteering, including specific genes (such as oxytocin receptor [OXTR] genes, Arginine vasopressin receptor [AVPR] genes, dopamine D4 receptor [DRD4] genes, and 5-HTTLPR).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Volunteering, Civic Participation, and Nonprofit Associations
PublisherPalgrave / MacMillan
Number of pages39
ISBN (Electronic)9781137263179
ISBN (Print)9781137263162
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


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