Helping others helps? A self-determination theory approach on work climate and wellbeing among volunteers

Yandan WU, Chunxiao LI

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


Participation in voluntary work is not sufficient to facilitate one's psychological wellbeing and the motivation underlying this helping behavior may matter. Grounded in self-determination theory, this survey research examined the relationships among a supportive work climate, autonomous/controlled motivation, and subjective wellbeing (i.e., emotional exhaustion and life satisfaction). Volunteers (n = 2022) answered a survey form measuring the related study variables. The results of structural equation modeling indicated that a supportive work climate positively and negatively predicted autonomous and controlled motivation, respectively. Autonomous motivation was a negative predictor of emotional exhaustion and a positive predictor of life satisfaction, whereas controlled motivation positively predicted emotional exhaustion and negatively predicted life satisfaction. A supportive work climate had an indirect effect on emotional exhaustion and life satisfaction via autonomous/controlled motivation. These findings suggest that only when volunteers are motivated by autonomous forms of motivation will their subjective wellbeing be enhanced. Copyright © 2018 Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature and The International Society for Qualityof-Life Studies (ISQOLS).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1099-1111
JournalApplied Research in Quality of Life
Issue number4
Early online dateMay 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019


survey research


Wu, Y., & Li, C. (2019). Helping others helps? A self-determination theory approach on work climate and wellbeing among volunteers. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 14(4), 1099-1111. doi: 10.1007/s11482-018-9642-z


  • Volunteering
  • Motivation
  • Autonomy support
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Satisfaction