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The role of civil society in securing self-assessed quality of life in rural areas
in Rural quality of life

This chapter asks how do inhabitants in Danish rural areas assess whether, how and why participation in civil society influences their quality of life. Theoretically, we argue that the importance for civil society’s role in influencing life satisfaction depends on whether the citizens are engaged in social networks which are profound and long lasting. Twenty-eight semi-structured interviews with individuals who were in different ways and to a different extent engaged in civil society in three different rural settings in Denmark form the empirical base of the analysis. In the analysis we show that long-lasting and deep participation in civil society results in higher levels of quality of life. Specifically, we point to three different mechanisms which we illustrate in three themes: Theme 1: Making activities possible for other local citizens, Theme 2: Contributing to civil society is rewarding for the individual, and Theme 3: It is rewarding to be a part of the struggle for overcoming the challenges of living in rural areas. Further, we argue that an age difference exists, as the younger persons, to a greater extent than older persons, participate in civil society to get a rich social life with friends. The older persons to a greater extent highlight the altruistic motives for contributing to civil society. Finally, we argue that with regard to increasing quality of life, ‘collective volunteering’ seems to be of higher importance than ‘reflexive volunteering’ for the interviews in this study.


It has been shown that self-reported quality of life is higher in rural areas than in the city in Denmark (Sørensen, 2018; Lolle & Andersen, 2019), as well as in other national contexts in the global North (Okulicz-Kozaryn, 2015; Burger et al., 2020; Dijkstra, 2020; Gilbert et al., 2016; Viganò et al., 2019). In this chapter we assess the role participation in civil society might play in rural areas for inhabitants’ self-reported quality of life in the global North.

The basis for this chapter is research showing that participation in activities related to civil society does seem to matter for individuals’ quality of life. For example, ‘membership’ in associations has a positive impact on self-reported quality of life (Cutler, 1976, 1982; Helliwell, 2002; Haski-Leventhal, 2009; Wallace & Pichler, 2009; Eime et al., 2010). ‘Volunteering’ also has a positive impact on self-reported quality of life and happiness (Wheeler et al., 1998; Haski-Leventhal, 2009; Loga, 2010; Tiefenbach & Holdgrüns, 2015; Ibsen et al., 2021). Finally, several studies have shown a correlation between quality of life and ‘participation’ in cultural, leisure and sports activities, many of which take place in relation to civil society (Snyder et al., 2010; Brajša-Žganec, 2011; Downward & Rasciute, 2011; Gopinath et al., 2012; Becchetti et al., 2012; Young et al., 2013; Wheatley & Bickerton, 2017, 2019).

The starting point is that civil society might play a more important role for individuals’ quality of life in rural areas, as civil society is more often an important arena for participation in activities and events in comparison with larger cities, where the number of activities is higher (particularly with a higher number of commercial actors). Hence, civil society might play an important role as the glue that to some extent binds the local community together. In recent decades, however, there have been significant changes in the rural areas of Denmark, which has also highlighted the role and importance of civil society. Up until the 1950s and 1960s, rural areas were strongly dominated by agriculture and businesses derived from agriculture; most of everyday life (work, school, shopping, leisure, etc.) took place within a relatively limited geographical area; culturally, each rural area was characterised by a great homogeneity; and each rural area had its own decentralised political government (in the last fifty years, the number of municipalities has been reduced from about 1,000 to almost 100). Today rural inhabitants in Denmark are therefore to a lesser extent mutually dependent in the sense that they less frequently work in the local area where they live, often use the nearest towns for shopping as well as leisure and cultural activities, and therefore are to a lesser extent dependent on each other and on the offers and opportunities that business and civil society previously provided (Sørensen, 2014). Such tendencies are seen in other national contexts as well (Wallace et al., 2017; Wuthnow, 2013). Hence, today it is possible to ‘just’ live in rural areas, enjoy nature, commute to work and cultural events in larger cities, and in that sense not be very connected to the local community (Gieling et al., 2019) – particularly in rural areas with no or a weak tradition for being engaged in civil society.

In order to assess the role of civil society in rural areas, the extent to which individuals living in rural areas do seem to be engaged in civil society is initially considered. This is arguably a prerequisite if civil society is to play a role for the individual’s quality of life. What we find are indications that, at least in Denmark, civil society plays a more dominant role for individuals living in rural areas in comparison with individuals living in more urban areas. The volunteers in rural areas spend more hours per month volunteering (CFSA, 2020), the inhabitants on average conduct voluntary efforts in a higher number of associations, and a higher proportion of the rural population are involved in voluntary efforts (Svendsen, 2017). Finally, volunteering efforts in relation to sports facilities in rural areas are more widespread (Forsberg et al., 2017). Similar trends can be seen in other national contexts, such as the USA (Wuthnow, 2013).

But so far, much of the research on the role civil society might play for quality of life has had a quantitative bias (Cieslik, 2021) and has been less focused on how and why the more widespread participation in civil society in rural areas might be able to explain parts of the systematic variation in quality of life between urban and rural areas. It is against this backdrop that this chapter uses a qualitative methodological approach to focus on how and why participation in civil society matters for individuals living in rural areas. Therefore, the research question is: How do inhabitants in three Danish rural areas assess whether, how and why participation in civil society influences their quality of life?

The research also shows that the difference between urban areas and rural areas in quality of life is not as big as it is sometimes perceived to be (Lolle & Andersen, 2019; Dijkstra, 2020; Eurofound, 2020) and the connection between participation in civil society and quality of life is not always as strong as the studies mentioned in the section above show (Enroljas, 2015). One study, for example, shows that it is difficult to demonstrate that membership of an association increases quality of life in the Danish setting (Ibsen et al., 2021). Based on these mixed findings, we aim to use this chapter to discuss the role civil society in rural areas might play in quality of life in rural areas.


We are particularly inspired by theories set forth by Lim and Putnam (2010) and Stebbins (1996, 2001, 2007). First, Lim and Putnam’s findings show that only when people have both a strong sense of religious identity and networks within the religious community does religion enhance life satisfaction. The conclusion is based on an analysis of religious congregations, but Lim and Putnam believe that ‘networks based on non-religious social identity have a similar effect as long as the members of these networks meet regularly in a certain context and share a strong sense of identity’ (Lim & Putnam, 2010, p. 929).

Second, and unlike Lim and Putnam, Stebbins (1996, 2001, 2007) puts more emphasis on self-expression in social fellowship with others. Stebbins believes that quality of life depends on whether one is involved in ‘casual leisure’ or in ‘serious leisure’. Casual leisure refers to ‘immediately intrinsic rewarding, relatively short-lived pleasurable activity requiring little or no special training to enjoy it’ (Stebbins, 2001, p. 53). Serious leisure, on the other hand, is defined as ‘the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or career volunteer activity that captivates its participants with the complexity and many challenges. It is profound, long lasting, and invariably based on substantial skill, knowledge or experience’ (Stebbins, 2001, p. 54). Stebbins finds that serious leisure to a greater degree than casual leisure generates rewards for its participants, among them fulfilling one’s human potential, expressing one’s skills and knowledge, having cherished experiences and developing a valued identity and taking part in the affairs of the group (Stebbins, 2001, p. 54), which together strengthen the individual’s quality of life.

In principle, the opportunities to engage in serious leisure are as good in urban areas as in rural areas, especially in terms of the opportunity to pursue an activity as an amateur. But it is the part of serious leisure, which Stebbins calls ‘serious volunteering’, that contributes to the development of community life or ‘public good’, which can be assumed to be more widespread in rural areas. Rational free-rider theory prescribes that ‘serious volunteering’ depends on the size of the community to which the collective good pertains. This is confirmed by studies showing that contributions to a public good dwindle as group size increases (Stahl & Haruvy, 2006; Darley & Latane, 1968).

Inspired by both Lim & Putnam (2010) and Stebbins (1996, 2001, 2007), the theoretical assumption is that the importance of associations for life satisfaction depend on whether citizens are engaged in communities (social networks) which are profound and long lasting. This includes, for example, activities supporting local identity, the history of the local community and ‘destiny’ or the common interest in maintaining, for example, a public school or other public institution, etc. A basic assumption is that individuals in general thrive when they relate to other inhabitants – and that having such connections basically contributes to their experience of having higher levels of quality of life. We further assume that the size of rural communities and the dependence on citizens’ commitment to the ‘common good’ contribute to people engaging in meaningful communities.

Methodological considerations

The research project is based on multi-sited qualitative interviews conducted in three rural areas in Denmark. We selected rural areas with similar characteristics but geographically dispersed to assess the inhabitants’ perception of how civil society might matter for their quality of life in similar geographical settings. Inclusion criteria for the rural areas were that they have approximately 1,000 inhabitants and that they all have public and/or non-public schools, basic sports and cultural facilities and basic shopping possibilities (such as a grocery store). They all have more than thirty minutes of driving to a city with more than 45,000 inhabitants (which includes the eleven largest cities in Denmark). All three rural areas are hence to be considered a rural setting (Erhvervsministeriet, 2020). Finally, the three rural areas are in three different parts of Denmark and for this reason, obviously, also in three different municipalities. As our aim is not to generalise but to find patterns typical to inhabitants in these rural areas, we have used ‘purposeful selection’ (Maxwell, 2013) to ensure that we gain access to knowledge that is relevant to our purpose. However, beside the similarities of the settings, at least one important difference needs to be highlighted. First, even though all rural areas had schools, the types of school were quite different. In one of the rural areas the local municipal primary school had been closed for some years and therefore in this rural area there was no school offer to pupils below 15 years of age. But all three areas have a free residential school, which is a non-profit school, based on civil society ideals, where children and young people in ninth and tenth grade live and go to school for a year. Few local pupils will attend this type of residential school, which will normally have pupils from different parts of Denmark. About 20 per cent of Danish teenagers attend such a school for one to two years when they are 14–17 years old (Efterskoleforeningen, 2021). Hence, the residential schools in the three rural areas to varying extents provide facilities for the local community.

We used three key persons in each town as ‘gatekeepers’ (such as chairpersons from local sports clubs, manager of the local grocery store or the manager of the local development forum) to get in contact with potential interviewees in the community. Each ‘gatekeeper’ was asked to provide us with a list of ten persons involved in civil society as well as persons involved to a lesser extent. Based on the provided list of contacts we selected twenty-eight interviewees almost equally distributed between the settings. Due to COVID-19 restrictions the interviews were conducted on the phone. Our aim was to sample informants that were very involved as well as those who were less involved in civil society. It was, however, a challenge to get in contact with persons that were less involved in civil society. As a consequence, the more involved are slightly more represented in the sampled interviews.

The interviews were conducted as semi-structured to make sure that they followed the same themes, but simultaneously allowing for the informants to present additional themes that they found important. The structure of the interview guide was first to ask about their perception of quality of life, moving on to questions about the connection between quality of life and living in a rural area and finally narrowing it into questions about their involvement in civil society and how involvement/non-involvement affected their quality of life.

The interviews were conducted by two of the authors in the period from April 2020 to November 2020 and lasted between forty and ninety minutes. Interviews were first transcribed and then analysed using Nvivo. The interviews were read several times to identify patterns that seemed pertinent to the informants independently of settings or individual position. These identified patterns were organised into themes and next the interviews were analysed deductively to deepen the insight according to the themes. The four overarching themes were: What do the interviewees in general say about their quality of life?; How do they relate to their participation in civil society?; How do they relate to their use of local meeting places?; and Has the COVID-19 crisis had any type of influence on how they perceive their quality of life? From the first round of deductive coding, based on the four overarching themes, we inductively developed themes which in different ways highlighted how the interviewees relate their participation in civil society in rural areas to their quality of life. We selected the three most dominant themes which are described in the analysis below.


In this section we summarise our main findings for three overarching themes: (1) making activities possible for other local citizens; (2) contributing to civil society is rewarding for the individual; and (3) it is rewarding to be a part of the struggle for overcoming the challenges of living in rural areas.

Theme 1: Making activities possible for other local citizens

First, civil society plays an important role as an arena for leisure activities, particularly for children, adolescents and youngsters in the rural areas. Several of the interviewed argue that participation in civil society is also a way of contributing to the rural areas being attractive places to live – and hence to be attractive arenas for establishing higher levels of quality of life. But contrary to what you might expect – that to contribute to the possibilities of the local citizens would be seen as a strenuous affair – it is perceived by a clear majority of the interviewees as being personally rewarding to contribute to civil society via, for example, helping the local associations and through such efforts contributing to creating possibilities in the local areas. For example, a younger female stated that

it is important that someone steps up when there is a need for help … I do not know if I consider what is in it for me, but I like to help if there is a need for help … it probably gives me the sensation not just to have a laid-back attitude to the rural area I live in, but that I am actually able to get some of the heavier wheels rolling now and then.

(interviewee 1, rural area 2)

It is evident that it is getting involved in creating possibilities in the local community that is of importance. And it does not even have to be activities that you are engaged in yourself. It is acknowledged by several of the interviewees that to be a part of civil society is also about securing widely available activities in rural areas. To be a part of civil society gives the individual a sense of contributing, which seems to be very rewarding to them. For example, one interviewee stressed that being a part of creating possibilities for the local rural area in general is important

because what makes a rural area bloom is that you relate to each other … that you are a part of civil society, participate and learn to know new people … people that you would otherwise not meet … that is very important … because what makes it possible, that you meet across different contexts, is the different parts of civil society. But myself, I do not thrive with having to participate every Thursday at 7pm – so I have to find other ways to get my exercise … but what I do like is to contribute by helping out with arranging different events in the rural area through being engaged in the local association.

(interviewee 1, rural area 3)

A middle-aged male also reflects on how it is to have the experience that others rely on you making a difference via your participation in local associations,

because no matter if you like it or not, some people need you, and we do like that someone is somewhat dependent on us. One thing that gives us satisfaction is that someone really needs you and is willing to listen to what you have to say. So, of course this gives you an improved quality of life that you have a position in society and that I do make a difference … that obviously gives quality of life … no doubt about that.

(interviewee 8, rural area 3)

Hence, it is creating possibilities for others that seems to be of particular importance for the interviewees. This seems to indicate that it is particularly when you are involved in meaningful activities in the longer run (serious leisure), not only immediate activities (casual leisure), that the longer-term commitments between individuals might develop and translate into influencing individuals’ quality of life.

Theme 2: Contributing to civil society is rewarding for the individual

According to theme 1, the interviewees stress that being involved in planning and executing civil society activities is rewarding because it is a way to make sure that others might benefit from participating in such activities. But as we show below, to participate in civil society is also perceived as being individually rewarding because participating in civil society provides the opportunity to establish and maintain long-lasting relationships with other locals.

For example, a person stresses how relating to other persons in civil society contributes to her quality of life:

it is satisfactory to be able to help the different associations … you do get something back by meeting all those people … and when you have taken part in a board meeting, plan and execute events or programmes, and then meet the other board members later and agree on … we managed to do this … it is very satisfactory to be able to say, that we have been a part of this … it is important for my quality of life not only to enjoy but also to contribute. I like that.

(interviewee 1, rural area 1)

What these interviews share is the notion that it is the combination of being a part of joint efforts and to be able to say that you have contributed to these efforts that might contribute to a shared and local identity. To have such a shared identity seems likely to translate into higher levels of quality of life as a shared identity is highlighted by many of the interviewees as something that is important and beneficial to them personally. For example, a person in his sixties who has volunteered all his life stresses that

it is a giant satisfaction to do something together with others … and to do something that you are not paid to do … the biggest part of the satisfaction is that you do this voluntarily, that you are not dependent on someone else having to pay … but instead that you give something to the community and then you get something back … that is the motivating force.

(interviewee 5, rural area 2)

What we find is, therefore, first, that it is not the immediate joy of being a part of activities themselves that is in focus when individuals reflect on how participation in civil society matters for them. Rather, it seems to be in the longer run being a part of civil society and relating to other locals that appear to be experienced as rewarding.

Theme 3: It is rewarding to be a part of the struggle for overcoming the challenges of living in rural areas

What cuts across the engagement in civil society for many of the interviewees, besides that it is seen as personally rewarding to be a part of civil society, is also a perception of necessity in their engagement in local civil society. That is, that it is a struggle to keep rural areas alive, which is illustrated by the following quote by a middle-aged male:

if no one out here volunteers, then nothing happens. There will be no scouts, no sports association … we are a small town but we have a swimming pool, a sports hall and fitness facilities. Many of those things would not have been here if volunteers had not said, we want this, we will do this, that is quality of life for us, that we have got that in our area … in larger cities … such things come automatically. But here – if someone wants something to happen within for example music or volleyball … then they have to do something themselves

(interviewee 9, rural area 1)

On one hand, the quotes illustrate that struggling is about just that – struggling despite a general development which challenges life in rural areas due to centralisation and the rural exodus (Gieling et al., 2019). But as the quotes also illustrate, it is experienced as rewarding to overcome (some of) the challenges of living in rural areas together. Hence, the interviewees sometimes feel obliged to contribute, because if no one steps up, then nothing happens.

To underline this point, a young female stresses the importance of contributing to the local rural community; when asked about whether she primarily contributes because it is needed or because it is a duty, she states that

it is somewhat of a duty … because otherwise I am afraid that there will be no volunteering, no cinema or no sports hall, but it is not a boring duty … I see it more as a part of living in this rural area … I want these possibilities to be available for me and my neighbours. So, it is not a boring duty … but it is like … I just know that it is necessary that we also participate.

(interviewee 1, rural area 2)

Even though it is not a ‘boring duty’, it is acknowledged that closure of meeting places makes the struggle harder. The most evident finding in relation to the importance of meeting places is the closure of the school in rural area 2. When the school closed, it became much more difficult for the local sports club to create activities for local kids and adolescents. A local male coach concludes:

after the school closed, almost all the younger players are gone … which is natural … you want to play soccer with those you also attend school with. So of course, you go directly from school to the local sports facility … so now the kids and adolescents play soccer where they attend school.

(interviewee 6, rural area 2)

The importance of having a local school for children below 15 years of age is also something that turns up in interviews from rural area 1 (interviewee 6) and in rural area 3 (interviewee 8). Therefore, local meeting places (such as a local school) seem to be important for civil society to provide activities in rural areas.

In sum, it is perceived as rewarding that your efforts are needed, and that your efforts are necessary as a part of the struggle to keep possibilities open in that rural area is contributing to the quality of life of individuals.

The role of age across the different themes

Even though the interviewees share many perspectives on how civil society contributes to their quality of life, nuances do occur across age. Hence, the younger persons interviewed to a lesser extent than the other age groups highlight how contributing to overcoming the struggle and creating good possibilities for other age groups is rewarding. Instead, the younger persons participate in associations to get a rich social life with friends. For them, participation in civil society is to a greater extent than for the other age groups mostly about meeting like-minded people and having civil society as an arena for their social life. These findings are in line with other studies which have also shown that younger persons to a greater extent get involved in voluntary efforts because of its advantages for them in relation to, for example, their future career, whereas older persons more often are involved for more altruistic reasons (Haski-Leventhal et al., 2016; Ronkainen et al., 2020). Just as it is in the case in other rural areas, several of the youngsters interviewed are on their way to move away from the rural areas to get an education, which is known to have a strong impact on staying intentions (Dufhues et al., 2021; Glendinning et al., 2003). Several of the youngsters interviewed were planning to move away for educational purposes, which also seemed to affect the role they ascribed to their participation in local civil society, where they to a lesser extent than the older age groups stressed the qualities of participating in civil society in the longer run.


To sum up, our findings suggest that for the interviewees it is being deeply involved in the local civil society that is rewarding and which seems to contribute to their quality of life. The combination of planning and executing activities together and overcoming (some of) the struggles involved with living in a rural area, such as having limited access to human, political and economic resources, seems to be particularly important for civil society’s contribution to quality of life in rural areas. Hence, it is not the immediate activities themselves (‘casual leisure’), but rather the longer-lasting character of being involved in ‘serious leisure’ activities which seems to be of importance in supporting higher levels of quality of life.

However, it is important to consider if the constructive force of the ‘struggle’ with regard to its possible contribution to quality of life might have its limits. For example, the closure of the school in rural area 2 has made the ‘struggle’ more strenuous as the children instead take part in activities where they attend school. Other research on the consequences of school closures in Danish rural areas showed similar tendencies (Svendsen & Sørensen, 2016; Sørensen et al., 2021), but also that how dire the consequences are for the local community depends on how much human capital is present leading up to the school closure. In areas with higher levels of human capital, the consequences are arguably less dire than in rural areas with lower levels of human capital (Egelund & Laustsen, 2006). We have not considered how a different composition of the inhabitants across the three rural areas might influence the extent to which they will be able to overcome ‘struggles’. But our material indicates that participating in local civil society seems to be linked to higher levels of quality of life at least for those participating. As school closures seem to weaken the possibilities for local civil society to be well functioning, school closures have the potential to result in lower levels of quality of life in rural areas for those individuals for whom civil society is of importance. We therefore argue that decisions on school closures, and closures of other types of institutions and meetings places which support civil society, should take into consideration the possible negative impact such closures might have in the longer run on quality of life. Even though our study has shown that it positively influences quality of life to be a part of the ‘struggle’, we find it relevant to consider that a balance between a ‘constructive struggle’ and a more ‘destructive struggle’ might exist, where it becomes too hard to fight against the overall demographic and structural developments. In such cases of too hard a struggle, ‘volunteer burnout’ (Wilson et al., 2016) and other types of negative consequences for the volunteers might be the result.

Immediately one might think that it seems to be a challenge for quality of life that a number of the interviewees note that they have to do ‘something’ – if they do not do something themselves and contribute to civil society, then nothing will happen. On the one hand, it is in line with the ‘ free-rider’ theory that assumes that people’s contribution to public good – here in the form of a civil society commitment – is greater in smaller communities and groups than in larger ones. On the other hand, such a ‘necessary’ commitment may be perceived as less free and more forced than one normally associates with a commitment to civil society. And this immediately seems to run counter to the studies showing that the feeling of individual freedom results in higher levels of self-assessed quality of life (see, for example, Ferriss, 2002; Inglehart, 2010; Lolle & Andersen, 2019; Welzel & Inglehart, 2010). But based on our findings, it seems to be exactly the notion that others depend on you that seems to be a part of why people spend time and effort in civil society in rural areas. This seems to be in line with the theoretical premise – that it is participation in ‘serious leisure’, understood as the longer-term commitment in civil society, that led to a shared identity being created. And this might be a central difference between rural and more urban areas – that the perception of necessity is stronger in rural areas, and that – contrary to what you might immediately think – the perception of increased necessity contributes to individuals’ quality of life via creating a stronger sense of joint identity locally. And according to Lim & Putnam’s (2010) findings, a strong identity contributes to higher levels of quality of life. Other research has shown that rural residents develop more affective links and value their localities more than their urban counterparts. Hence, both rural and urban residents identify themselves with their local place identity. But inhabitants from rural areas develop an attachment to their local community, and to a greater extent form membership pride and positive evaluation of their local rural setting (Belanche et al., 2021). Our research immediately seems to confirm that rural dwellers do have a strong attachment to their local community via their participation in civil society activities and that this seems to be part of the reason that they feel that civil society contributes to their quality of life.

Finally, it is interesting to note that what seems to result in increased levels of quality of life is participation in ‘serious leisure’ activities. This finding seems to run counter to the widespread idea that the motives for volunteering have undergone a major change from ‘collective’ volunteering towards a more ‘reflexive’ type of volunteering, according to which the motives to volunteer have shifted from a ‘collective identity’ to ‘self-identity’, from ‘subordination to collective goals’ to ‘biographical match’, and from ‘obvious sense of duty or responsibility to community’ to ‘self-centered motivation’ (Hustinx & Lammertyn, 2003). According to our findings, the motivations connected to ‘collective volunteering’ seem to be more pertinent in our material, as the motives connected to ‘collective volunteering’ seem to be linked to two of the three mechanisms leading to increased levels of quality of life, namely ‘Theme 1: Making activities possible for other local citizens’ and ‘Theme 3: It is rewarding to be a part of the struggle for overcoming the challenges of living in rural areas’, which are ‘collective’ rather than ‘reflexive’. Even though the other mechanism, ‘Theme 2: Contributing to civil society is rewarding for the individual’, seems to be more ‘reflexive’, the overall picture is that if you want to understand how it might be possible to support more individuals in attaining higher levels of quality of life in rural areas, one should focus particularly on how individuals might be motivated to consider getting involved in ‘collective volunteering’, as this type of volunteering seems to be a main driver behind the mechanisms resulting in higher levels of quality of life.


We have shown whether, how and why participation in civil society influences inhabitants’ quality of life in three rural areas in Denmark. It should be acknowledged that the conclusions are valid in settings which share similarities with the settings in the study, that is, in settings of a similar size and geographical location and in a nation-state type which share similarities with Denmark such as other Northern European countries. With this limitation in mind, it is shown in the chapter that it is being engaged in ‘serious leisure’ activities in a manner that seems to build up a strong joint identity which positively influence quality of life via three different types of mechanisms, which we have presented under the following three themes: Theme 1: Making activities possible for other local citizens, Theme 2: Contributing to civil society is rewarding for the individual and Theme 3: It is rewarding to be a part of the struggle for overcoming the challenges of living in rural areas.

It seems likely that particularly under theme 1 and theme 3 that findings seem to be distinct for rural areas, whereas findings for theme 2 seem to be likely to also be found in more urban settings. Hence, it is a limitation to the study that we have not compared how inhabitants in more urban settings experience how their participation in civil society might matter for their quality of life. Larger empirical studies could test whether such differences can be confirmed across settings with a different degree of urbanity. Future studies could, for example, delve further into how and why participation in civil society might differently influence quality of life in urban and rural settings.


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