Methods: This study used data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a national representative survey of individuals over the age of 50. The respondents were asked if they were physically abused by their parent(s) in childhood and adolescence before the age of 18, during the 2006 to 2012 survey period. To provide a snapshot of the prevalence of ACEs among the HRS respondents and its association with volunteering and psychosocial well-being, we analyzed cross-sectional data from 2012 (n=6,887). Hierarchical linear regressions were conducted, and an interaction term between volunteering and their ACEs was added to the models.
Results: Those who experienced ACEs were associated with higher levels of loneliness and lower levels of purpose in life, and life satisfaction, compared to those who did not experience ACEs. While volunteering was associated with positive psychosocial well-being outcomes in both groups, older adults who were physically abused by their parent(s) and those who were not (p<.001), volunteering had a greater positive impact on the level of loneliness among those who were physically abused by their parent(s), compared to those who were not, and it was statistically significant (p=.005).
Conclusion and Implications: ACEs have an influence on the development of poor physical and mental health in adulthood. Furthermore, these traumatic early childhood events can isolate individuals as they age. In addition to consistent efforts for their health and health care issues, productive activities, such as volunteering, have potential to help them recover quality social ties and stay engaged in the community while achieving optimal psychosocial well-being outcomes later in their lives.