Arthritis restricts volunteer participation: Prevalence and correlates of volunteer status among adults with arthritis


  • The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • This research was performed under an appointment to the Research Participation Program at the CDC, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education under contract DE-AC05-06OR23100 between the US Department of Energy and Oak Ridge Associated Universities.



To estimate, among adults ages ≥45 years with arthritis, the prevalence and correlates of 1) volunteering, 2) arthritis-attributable restrictions among volunteers, and 3) arthritis as the main barrier to volunteering (AMBV) among non-volunteers.


Data were from the 2005–2006 Arthritis Conditions Health Effects Survey, a cross-sectional random-digit–dialed national telephone survey of noninstitutionalized US adults ages ≥45 years with self-reported, doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Respondents (n = 1,793; weighted population 37.7 million) were asked if they currently volunteer (work outside the home without pay). Volunteers were asked if arthritis affects their amount or type of volunteering (arthritis-attributable volunteer limitation [AAVL]). Non-volunteers were asked if arthritis is the main reason they do not volunteer (AMBV). Univariable and multivariable-adjusted logistic regression analyses were performed to estimate associations between potential correlates and each outcome.


One-third of the respondents reported volunteering. Among volunteers, 41% (4.9 million) reported AAVL. Among non-volunteers, 27% (6.8 million) reported AMBV. Fair/poor self-rated health was significantly associated with less volunteering (multivariable-adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.5, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.4–0.8) and greater AAVL (multivariable-adjusted OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.1–4.0) and AMBV (multivariable-adjusted OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.2–2.7). Poor physical function was the most strongly associated correlate of both AAVL and AMBV (multivariable-adjusted ORs 8.0 and 4.3, respectively).


Volunteering is an important role with individual and societal benefits, but almost 12 million adults with arthritis are limited or do not participate in volunteering due to arthritis. Individuals with restrictions in volunteering reported a substantial burden of poor physical function and may benefit from effective, underused interventions designed to improve physical function, delay disability, and enhance arthritis self-management.