Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kenneth F Ferraro

Committee Member 1

Elliot M Friedman

Committee Member 2

Sarah A Mustillo

Committee Member 3

Patricia A Thomas


This dissertation consists of three empirical papers that investigate social antecedents and health consequences of productive activity. The ideas of productive activity and productive aging are the main concepts guiding the dissertation. The project is innovative by (a) testing how components of capital influence productive activities, (b) replicating analyses of productive activity and chronic inflammation in a Korean sample, and (c) examining sleep as a potential mediator and moderator of the relationship between productive activities and chronic inflammation. Chapter 2 attempted to contribute to the knowledge on productive aging by testing components of human, social, and cultural capital and older adults' participation in productive activities. In both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses, education was related to all four types of productive activity (volunteering, meeting attendance, caregiving, and employment). Cultural capital was a consistent predictor of volunteering and meeting attendance. Chapter 3 then investigated whether multiple forms of productive activity affect health, focusing on chronic inflammation as a major physical health outcome in American and Korean older adults. The findings show gender-specific effects of employment and meeting attendance on inflammation in American older adults, but not in Korean older adults. Finally, Chapter 4 explicated the pathways linking productive activity and chronic inflammation in order to understand the underlying processes through which productive aging is beneficial to health. The results revealed that insufficient sleep moderates the link between volunteering and inflammation. The project offers a fuller understanding of the factors that promote or hinder older adults' productive aging and how these activities influence chronic inflammation as a modifiable health outcome.