A systematic review of episodic volunteering in public health and other contexts

Hyde, Melissa K., Dunn, Jeff, Scuffham, Paul A. and Chambers, Suzanne K. (2014) A systematic review of episodic volunteering in public health and other contexts. BMC Public Health, 14 992: 1-16. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-992

Author Hyde, Melissa K.
Dunn, Jeff
Scuffham, Paul A.
Chambers, Suzanne K.
Title A systematic review of episodic volunteering in public health and other contexts
Journal name BMC Public Health   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1471-2458
Publication date 2014-09-24
Year available 2014
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1186/1471-2458-14-992
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 14
Issue 992
Start page 1
End page 16
Total pages 16
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher BioMed Central
Collection year 2015
Language eng
Formatted abstract

Episodic volunteers are a critical resource for public health non-profit activities but are poorly understood. A systematic review was conducted to describe the empirical evidence about episodic volunteering (EV) in the public health sector and more broadly. Study location, focus and temporal trends of EV research were also examined.


Twelve key bibliographic databases (1990-April week 2, 2014) were searched, including Google Scholar. Empirical studies published in English in peer-reviewed journals that identified participants as EVs who volunteered to support Not-for-Profit organisations in the health and social welfare sectors were included. EV definitions, characteristics, economic costs, antecedents and outcomes and theoretical approaches were examined.


41 articles met initial review criteria and 20 were specific to the health or social welfare sectors. EV definitions were based on one or more of three dimensions of duration, frequency, and task. EVs were predominantly female, middle aged, Caucasian (North American) and college/university educated. Fundraising was the most common EV activity and 72% had volunteered at least once. No studies examined the economic costs of EV. There was little consistency in EV antecedents and outcomes, except motives which primarily related to helping others, forming social connections, and self-psychological or physical enhancement. Most studies were atheoretical. Three authors proposed new theoretical frameworks.


Research is required to underpin the development of an agreed consensus definition of EV. Moreover, an EV evidence-base including salient theories and measures is needed to develop EV engagement and retention strategies for the health and social welfare sectors.
Keyword Episodic volunteering
Systematic review
Public health
Social welfare
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: UQ Centre for Clinical Research Publications
Official 2015 Collection
School of Social Science Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 4 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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