In a district of an urban community an agency arranging for voluntary help was built up within an action research project. Data from a longitudinal study are used to evaluate the effects this agency has on elderly people. The hypothesis formulated is that organized voluntary help is a means to improve social support and reduce social stress. These effects are expected to have indirect positive effects on health. In the first survey a representative, weighted random sample (total N=907, of which 303 were elderly, i.e. older than 64 years old) was asked about social stress, social support, health, demand for help in general and use of professional medical help. Thereafter an agency arranging for voluntary neighborhood help was built up and observed. Three years later, the follow-up survey was carried out. An effect-evaluation of the above mentioned program is determined by comparing the panel data of the elderly living in the district where the agency was built up with the data of a control group of elderly living in another district of the same city, where no such action had taken place. Results show unexpected negative effects on social support and on the informal help-system of the elderly people in the district, where voluntary neighborhood help had been organized. At the same time, though, organized voluntary help did reduce social stress and minor health disorders as well as the use of professional medical services. These results demand further analysis and discussion of means able to reduce the negative effect on social support without weakening the relief effect on stress and the positive effect on health.

Included in

Sociology Commons