Physiological correlates of volunteering

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

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

Abstract

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, better mental 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). We recommend that future research on physiological factors be extended to non-Western populations, focusing specifically on volunteering, and differentiating between different forms and types of volunteering and civic participation (cf. Cnaan and Park 2016; Smith 2014; see Handbook Chapter 31: Section D, #1).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Volunteering, Civic Participation, and Nonprofit Associations
PublisherPalgrave / MacMillan
Pages541-579
Number of pages39
Volume1
ISBN (Electronic)9781137263179
ISBN (Print)9781137263162
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

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Bekkers, R., Konrath, S. H., & Smith, D. H. (2017). Physiological correlates of volunteering. In The Palgrave Handbook of Volunteering, Civic Participation, and Nonprofit Associations (Vol. 1, pp. 541-579). Palgrave / MacMillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-26317-9_26