Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Department of Social Sciences - Berlin Graduate School of Social Science

Luise Burkhardt

Luise Burkhardt

BGSS Generation 2017



“Is helping others a key to achieving happiness? “ - Investigation on the relationship between prosocial behavior and well-being over the life course



Volunteering for people in need without monetary returns strengthens the common good and highly contributes to lived democracy in its function as a socio-integrative element for state and civil society. The expectations towards volunteer work are high and current policies promote the activating welfare state and encourage the active involvement of individuals in prosocial behavior. Prosocial behavior and volunteer work have been addressed by sociological research mainly with focus on the resources and motives leading to prosocial behavior. In my thesis work I want to address the relation between prosocial behavior and well-being over the life-course and therefore primary focus on the outcome of prosocial behavior for the individuals who voluntarily commit themselves to the service for society. A large empirical literature provides evidence that well-being or happiness is U-shaped over the life-course (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2009; Schwandt, 2013) and is only significantly affected by major life-events (Lucas, 2007). The causes leading to the U-shape have not yet been found. My dissertation thesis examines prosocial behavior as one possible escape from the U-shaped well-being curve, following the research question, whether individuals who are continuously engaged in prosocial behavior over the life-course develop a different well-being curve than people who do not engage in prosocial behavior. Anglo-American psychological and sociological research states a relation between prosocial behavior and a decline in perceived emotional stress (Raposa, Laws, Ansell, 2016) as well as with an increased well-being (Thoits & Hewitt, 2001). But still there is missing out research that further examines this relationship.