Effect of informal care targeting the elderly on elderly mortality

An evaluation of the effect of informal care targeting the elderly on elderly mortality

Exogenous variation in volunteering caused by an earthquake was used to identify the causal effect of volunteering on mortality. The level of volunteering considerably increased in municipalities hit by the earthquake, while other municipalities did not experience such a sharp increase in volunteering. The identification was based on a comparison of mortality between the municipalities with no or little loss of life attributable to the earthquake, that experienced the sharp increase in the level of volunteering, and the nearby municipalities that were not hit by the earthquake.

The UK government has been promoting ‘a culture of generosity’, which encourages the public to volunteer to help improve life for all. It spent £13.9 billion on voluntary organisations in 2009/10, corresponding to approximately 2 per cent of total spending. Over the past decade, government spending on the voluntary sector has grown by 61 per cent in real terms, showing a growing importance of the voluntary sector in providing public services. Results aided in assessing whether citizens (volunteers) can contribute to the well-being of the elderly.

The results indicated that volunteering significantly reduced the mortality of people in their 70s and 80s or older. Furthermore, supplementary regressions to infer the mechanisms through which volunteering reduces mortality suggested that volunteering is likely to have reduced elderly morality by improving general health conditions of the elderly. Following the manual on the measurement of volunteer work (International Labour Office, 2011), it is estimated that approximately $71,360 worth of labour was used to save the lives of two individuals aged 70 or older in a given year. Broadly, these results yielded various important policy implications. For instance, by encouraging volunteer work for the elderly, a government may be able to curb public healthcare expenditures without compromising health support for the elderly.

Outcome and Translation

This could be an important policy measure amid the ongoing population ageing and resulting increase in healthcare expenditures across the world. Similarly, in countries with limited provision of public healthcare services, a government, by supporting volunteer activity for the elderly, may still be able to improve the health of the elderly who cannot afford private healthcare.

In December 2016 the project was featured by the University of Aberdeen as a news item to highlight the causal link between volunteering and care recipients living longer. It was also featured in the Times newspaper (paywall), the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Daily News in India, the Aberdeen Evening Express, and was featured on BBC Radio Scotland.

HERU researchers involved in this research project: Yu Aoki

Publications

Aoki, Y. (2014) Donating time to charity: not working for nothing. IZA Discussion Paper No. 7990, Bonn, Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

Aoki, Y. (2014) More schooling, less youth crime? Learning from an earthquake in Japan, IZA Discussion Paper No. 8619, Bonn, Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

Aoki, Y. (2016) 'Donating time to charity: working for nothing?', Oxford Economic Papers, 69(1), 97-117.

Aoki, Y. (2016) The power of volunteering: you make me happy and I make you happy, OUP Blog, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Presentations

Aoki, Y. (2013) 'An outcome of free labour supply: effect of volunteer work on mortality. A natural experiment using earthquake shocks in Japan', Scottish Institute for Research in Economics Young Researchers' Forum, Edinburgh, 8 March 2013.

Aoki, Y. (2013) 'An outcome of free labour supply: effect of volunteer work on mortality. A natural experiment using earthquake shocks in Japan', Scottish Economics Society Annual Conference, Perth, 8-10 April 2013.

Aoki, Y. (2013) 'An outcome of free labour supply: effect of volunteer work on mortality. A natural experiment using earthquake shocks in Japan,' 8th Annual CEDI Conference: Economics of Disasters - Natural and Man-made, London, 22 May 2013.

Aoki, Y. (2013) 'An outcome of free labour supply: effect of volunteer work on mortality. A natural experiment using earthquake shocks in Japan', Annual Conference of the European Society for Population Economics, Aarhus, Denmark, 12-15 June 2013.

Aoki, Y. (2013) 'Donating time to charity: not working for nothing. Social externality of volunteer work', Stirling University Economics Department Seminar, Stirling University, September 2013.

Aoki, Y. (2013) 'Donating time to charity: not working for nothing. Social externality of volunteer work', TEPP Conference: Research on Health and Labour, Le Mans, France, 26-27 September 2013.

Aoki, Y. (2013) 'Donating time to charity: not working for nothing. Social externality of volunteer work', Newcastle University Economics Department and Institute of Health & Society Joint Seminar, Newcastle University, October 2013.

Aoki, Y. (2015) 'Donating time to charity: not working for nothing', Heriot-Watt University, Economics Department Seminar, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 16 January 2015.