Civic Engagement and Well-Being: Examining a Mediational Model Across Gender

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Purpose: The relationship between civic engagement and mental health is generally positive, yet particularly complex among those from low socioeconomic backgrounds and women. The current study examined pathways between civic engagement and well-being to clarify its merit as a health promotional tool for young adults. Design: Cross-sectional design using an online questionnaire. Setting: Participants were recruited at a mid-sized Northeastern US university. Sample: Participants (N = 438) were primarily White (78%) and female (72%). Measures: Demographics, socioeconomic status, civic engagement behavior, well-being, meaning in life, self-efficacy toward service, and social support. Analysis: Structural equation modeling to test an a priori model of civic engagement behavior and well-being in young adults. Models were conducted across men and women, covarying for social support. Results: The full effects model fit well, demonstrating positive relationships between civic engagement and well-being for both men and women with mediation by service self-efficacy and meaning in life (χ2(2) = 1.05, p =.59; CFI = 1.0; RMSEA =.00, 90%CI [.00,.07]; R2 =.46). Type of engagement (civic, electoral, sociopolitical) showed mixed results in relation to well-being. Conclusion: Civic activity was associated with well-being when mediated by service self-efficacy while sociopolitical voice correlated to stronger well-being when mediated by meaning in life. Future longitudinal studies should be conducted among more socioeconomically diverse populations to verify the role of civic engagement in health promotion.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

American Journal of Health Promotion