While most studies focused on the relation between volunteering and health-related outcomes, little attention has been given on the association between volunteering and the use of health care services. Thus, with this analysis we aimed at exploring whether and how the voluntary work of older adults is related to the utilization of health care services in Germany.
The analysis was based on data from the German Ageing Survey (DEAS), a nationally representative, longitudinal study of the German population aged 40 years and older. Focusing on volunteering, data from the waves 2002, 2008 and 2011 was used. Voluntary work in groups and organizations (yes/no) was used as explanatory variable. To quantify health care utilization, visits to general practitioners and specialists as well as nights in the hospital in the past 12 months were used. Fixed effects regressions were applied to estimate the association between volunteering and the outcome variables.
Regressions revealed that the onset of volunteer involvement was associated with an increase in specialist visits, whereas volunteering did not affect visits to general practitioners and the probability of hospitalization significantly.
Our findings emphasize the relation between volunteering and specialist visits. Future research is needed to examine the impact of volunteering on health care use, taking more detailed information regarding the specific context of volunteering as well as personality factors and personal background into consideration. This might be reasonable in advancing the knowledge about this association and in developing planned interventions.