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Location, location, location: contextual and compositional health effects of social capital in British Columbia, Canada


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  • Veenstra, Gerry
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    After decades of epidemiological exploration into individual-level risk factors for ill health, a recent surge of interest in the health effects of socially patterned attributes of geographically defined 'places' has given the structural side of the agency-structure debate new prominence in population health research. Utilizing two original data sets, one pertaining to features of communities in British Columbia, Canada and the other to characteristics of individuals living in them, this article distinguishes the health effects of socially patterned attributes of communities, including the social capital of communities, from the health effects of characteristics of residents that contribute to social capital, e.g., trust and participation in voluntary associations. Results from multilevel analysis demonstrated that, of three different individual-level measures of health and well-being (and including measures of long-term limiting illness and self-rated health), only a measure of depressive symptoms had variability that could be reasonably attributed to the level of the community. The social capital of communities in the form of the availability of public spaces explained some of this variability, but in the direction contrary to expectations. Overall, location (community of residence) did little to explicate health inequalities in this context. The strongest predictors of health in multivariate and multilevel models were characteristics of individual survey respondents, namely, income, trust in politicians and governments, and trust in other members of the community. Breadth of participation in networks of voluntary association was not significantly related to health in multivariate models.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 60 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 9 (May)
    Pages: 2059-2071

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:60:y:2005:i:9:p:2059-2071

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    Keywords: Place Social capital Multilevel modelling Self-rated health Long-term limiting illness Canada;


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    Cited by:
    1. Bassett, Emma & Moore, Spencer, 2013. "Social capital and depressive symptoms: The association of psychosocial and network dimensions of social capital with depressive symptoms in Montreal, Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 96-102.
    2. Markku Hyyppä & Juhani Mäki & Erkki Alanen & Olli Impivaara & Arpo Aromaa, 2008. "Long-term Stability of Social Participation," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 88(2), pages 389-396, September.
    3. De Clercq, B. & Vyncke, V. & Hublet, A. & Elgar, F.J. & Ravens-Sieberer, U. & Currie, C. & Hooghe, M. & Ieven, A. & Maes, L., 2012. "Social capital and social inequality in adolescents’ health in 601 Flemish communities: A multilevel analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 202-210.
    4. Favara, Marta, 2012. ""United we stand divided we fall": maternal social participation and children's nutritional status in Peru," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6264, The World Bank.
    5. Han, Sehee, 2013. "Compositional and contextual associations of social capital and self-rated health in Seoul, South Korea: A multilevel analysis of longitudinal evidence," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 113-120.


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