Volunteer Impact on Health-Related Outcomes for Seniors: a Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Background Volunteers are increasingly promoted to improve health-related outcomes for community-dwelling elderly without synthesized evidence for effectiveness. This systematic review and meta-analysis evaluates the effects of unpaid volunteer interventions on health-related outcomes for such seniors. Methods MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane (CENTRAL) were searched up to November 2018. We included English lan­guage, randomized trials. Two reviewers independently identi­fied studies, extracted data, and assessed evidence certainty (using GRADE). Meta-analysis used random-effects models. Univariate meta-regressions investigated the relationship between volunteer intervention effects and trial participant age, percentage females, and risk of bias. Results 28 included studies focussed on seniors with a variety of chronic conditions (e.g., dementia, diabetes) and health states (e.g., frail, palliative). Volunteers provided a range of roles (e.g., counsel­lors, educators and coaches). Low certainty evidence found that volunteers may improve both physical function (MD = 3.2 points on the 100-point SF-36 physical component score [PCS]; 95% CI: 1.09, 5.27) and physical activity levels (SMD = 0.5, 95% CI: 0.14 to 0.83). Adverse events were not increased. Conclusion Volunteers may increase physical activity levels and subject­ive ratings of physical function for seniors without apparent harm. These findings support the WHO call to action on evidence-based policies to align health systems in support of older adults.

publication date

  • March 2021