Formal and Informal Volunteering and Health in Mediterranean Europe
Technical paper

Formal and Informal Volunteering and Health in Mediterranean Europe

Damiano Fiorillo and Nunzia Nappo
Europe and Central Asia
Health and Volunteering

Fast read

  • This paper compares the relationship between both formal and informal volunteering and self-perceived health across Mediterranean European countries.
  • The paper defines self-perceived health as the respondent’s subjective assessment of their health. It uses data on volunteering in the 2006 EU statistics on income and living conditions, drawing on variables such as socioeconomic characteristics, housing features, neighbourhood quality, size of municipality and social and cultural participation.



The paper found that volunteering is correlated with self-perceived health. However, there are differences between formal and informal volunteering. Informal volunteering was shown to have a positive correlation with self-perceived health in France, Spain and Greece, compared to a negative correlation in Italy. The paper explains that motivation is an important factor. Volunteers driven by altruism generally gain significant benefits from volunteering, which in turn have a positive impact on health. However, the report notes that this is different in Italy, where people are generally altruistic and care about others without caring about their own health.

A significant positive association between formal volunteering and self-perceived health was found in Greece and Italy. The report explains this by a number of social and cultural factors linked to formal volunteering structures, arguing that greater overall involvement with volunteer associations can have positive effects on health.

The paper provides researchers and policymakers with new evidence and analysis on the correlation between volunteering (both formal and informal) and self-perceived impacts on health. As the paper only looks at correlations, further research is required address causation when data becomes available.