Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Humanities and Social Inquiry


This thesis is a quantitative, sociological examination of the relationship between Australian adults’ prosocial labour and subjective well-being over the life course. Population ageing in Australia and around the world has led to sustained efforts to understand the role of social behaviours in promoting well-being in older age. Increasingly, and in line with role enhancement theory, research on prosociality indicates that it has substantial, sustained well-being benefits for older people. The extent that this is unique to older people and ubiquitous for both formal and informal prosocial labour is unknown. Applying role enhancement theory, it is expected that prosocial labour supports individual well-being as it is an avenue to make a meaningful difference to others and to boost self-worth. Further, a gendered division of labour in Australia and elsewhere means that Australian men and women have had differing opportunities to engage in different social roles, and this extends to formal and informal labour. The importance of prosociality for role enhancement and well-being may therefore also be different for men to women, particularly with the cessation of previously long-held social roles. Age-related changes in personal circumstances— notably through life events, such as empty nesting (‘postparenting’) or retirement—may challenge an individual’s existing role-identities and therefore also be key moments in the life course for prosocial labour to support well-being...



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.