Subjective Well-Being and Participation in Volunteering in Russia


An extensive body of research suggests a positive connection between subjective well-being (SWB) and volunteering. However, their relationship is often described in terms of health-related and personal psychological effects, thus raising an issue of elaborating proxies that would focus on the social effects and determinants of such relationship. This study aims to demonstrate a number of direct and indirect links of volunteering and the SWB on the example of Russian citizens. We believe that exploring the connection between SWB and volunteering can expand knowledge about the social component of SWB and its correlates. The hypotheses suggested were tested using binary logistic regression on data from the All-Russian population survey (N = 2,015, urban and rural residents aged 18 and over were interviewed by telephone). The obtained results do not allow us to conclude that volunteering itself significantly increases the level of subjective well-being. Nevertheless, some kind of “external effect” was revealed: respondents are more likely to feel happy if they observe social solidarity, which in turn may be fostered by raising awareness of the beneficial outcomes of volunteerism. This observation directly leads to practical considerations to be taken into account in planning and organizing volunteer engagement. It would require a shift in the promotion of volunteerism, from its direct impact on the lives of individuals to a broader effect of volunteering on the quality of life in the community at large, fostering the feeling of social connectedness, common goals and solidarity. To achieve this, concerted efforts of NGO leaders and social media in this direction will be important.

Author Biographies

Irina V. Mersianova, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia

Irina V. Mersianova, Cand. Sci (Sociology), Director of the Center for Studies of the Nonprofit Sector and Civil Society; Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Politics and Governance, HSE University. She has the author of over 200 research and educational works. Her primary interests include various aspects of civil society and non-profit sector studies, including public policy issues and the sociology of non-profit organizations. Since 2007, I. Mersianova has been in charge of the Monitoring of Civil Society in the Russian Federation, which is conducted annually in HSE University. This unique sociological survey includes both representative population polls and surveys of NGO leaders, being unparalleled not only in the post-socialist world, but also in most of the developed countries. Irina Mersianova actively promotes civic education and public awareness of the positive effects of volunteering and charity on the country’s social and economic development and people’s well-being. She leads the Centre’s participation in large-scale international projects, such as the CIVICUS Civil Society Index in Russia, the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, Global Generosity in Times of Crisis (in partnership with Indiana University), and others. She is a co-author of contributions to influential international monographs and collections of papers, sharing an impressive picture of third sector, volunteerism and charity development in Russia with international academia, for example, International Encyclopedia of Civil Society (Springer, 2020); The Routledge Companion to Nonprofit Management (Routledge, 2020); Civil Society: Concepts, Challenges, Contexts (Springer, 2022).

Natalya V. Ivanova, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia

Natalya V. Ivanova, Cand. Sci (Philology), Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Studies of Civil Society and Nonprofit Sector, HSE University. She is the author of more than 30 academic publications on the development of charity, volunteerism, and other civic practices in modern Russia in the context of international experience and theories of civil society. Her academic interests include third sector, volunteerism and charity development, social impact investment, theories of third sector and civil society. Her publications examine issues, such as social impact of volunteering, NGO corporate governance, intergenerational transmission of volunteering and charity, relationship between volunteering and well-being, and others. Natalya V. Ivanova participated in the Centre’s international projects and co-authored the Centre’s publications in the International Encyclopedia of Civil Society (Springer, 2020).

Aleksandra S. Briukhno, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia

Aleksandra S. Briukhno, Junior Research Fellow at the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Studies in Non-Commercial Sector, Centre for Studies of Civil Society and Nonprofit Sector, HSE University. Her research interests include civil society and the non-profit sector, focusing on the digitalization of civil society and the utilization of new media. Her recent publications include: Briukhno, A. Social Media in Russian Non-Profit Organizations: Factors of Use (2023). Briukhno, A. (coauthored).  Russian Citizens’ Social Mood, Its Structure and Influence on Helping Behaviour (2023).

How to Cite
Mersianova, I., Ivanova, N., & Briukhno, A. (2024). Subjective Well-Being and Participation in Volunteering in Russia. Changing Societies & Personalities, 8(1), 78–92. doi:10.15826/csp.2024.8.1.264