Background: The need to understand posttraumatic growth (PTG) in relation to actual changes in an individual's life has recently been raised. However, the relationship of volunteering, health, and PTG has not yet been assessed.
Aims: To assess the relationship of volunteer work, health, and PTG, and to assess whether cognitive and emotional processing, emotional expressing, and social support differ in volunteer and non-volunteer breast cancer survivors.
Methods: Participants were 84 breast cancer survivors who had volunteered to work with newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and 40 breast cancer survivors who did not participate in any volunteer work. Participants completed the PTG inventory, the emotional expression and processing scale, the cognitive processing scale, and the multidimensional scale of perceived social support.
Results: Participants in both groups reported similar and relatively high levels of PTG (M = 70.22, SD = 17.38 in a possible range of 0–105). In the volunteer group, PTG levels were not related to self-reported health (r = 0.07, p>0.05), while in the non-volunteer group a high and significant correlation between self-reported health and PTG (r = 0.46, p<0.001), and a significant effect of group×self-reported health on PTG levels, were found. The study variables accounted for 31% of PTG variance, with cognitive and emotional processing and the interaction of group×health being significant predictors.
Conclusions: Although volunteers did not differ from non-volunteers in PTG levels, higher PTG was related to better health in the non-volunteers group only. These findings point to the complexity of PTG structure and its multifaceted relation to behavior. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.