This paper examines whether participation in social activities is associated with higher levels of wellbeing among post-retirement age people in England, and, if so, whether these relationships are explained by the reciprocal nature of these activities. Cross-sectional analysis of relationships between social activities (including paid work, caring and volunteering) and wellbeing (quality of life, life satisfaction and depression) was conducted among participants of one wave of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) who were of state pension age or older. Participants in paid or voluntary work generally had more favourable wellbeing than those who did not participate in these activities. Caring was not associated with wellbeing, although female carers were less likely to be depressed than non-carers. Carers, volunteers and those in paid work who felt adequately rewarded for their activities had better wellbeing than those who were not participating in those activities, while those who did not feel rewarded did not differ from non-participants. These results point to the need to increase the rewards that older people receive from their productive activities, particularly in relation to caring work.