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Social capital, mental health and biomarkers in Chile: Assessing the effects of social capital in a middle-income country


  • Riumallo-Herl, Carlos Javier
  • Kawachi, Ichiro
  • Avendano, Mauricio


In high-income countries, higher social capital is associated with better health. However, there is little evidence of this association in low- and middle-income countries. We examine the association between social capital (social support and trust) and both self-rated and biologically assessed health outcomes in Chile, a middle-income country that experienced a major political transformation and welfare state expansion in the last two decades. Based on data from the Chilean National Health Survey (2009–10), we modeled self-rated health, depression, measured diabetes and hypertension as a function of social capital indicators, controlling for socio-economic status and health behavior. We used an instrumental variable approach to examine whether social capital was causally associated with health. We find that correlations between social capital and health observed in high-income countries are also observed in Chile. All social capital indicators are significantly associated with depression at all ages, and at least one social capital indicator is associated with self-rated health, hypertension and diabetes at ages 45 and above. Instrumental variable models suggest that associations for depression may reflect a causal effect from social capital indicators on mental well-being. Using aggregate social capital as instrument, we also find evidence that social capital may be causally associated with hypertension and diabetes, early markers of cardiovascular risk. Our findings highlight the potential role of social capital in the prevention of depression and early cardiovascular disease in middle-income countries.

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  • Riumallo-Herl, Carlos Javier & Kawachi, Ichiro & Avendano, Mauricio, 2014. "Social capital, mental health and biomarkers in Chile: Assessing the effects of social capital in a middle-income country," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 47-58.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:105:y:2014:i:c:p:47-58
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.12.018

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    Cited by:

    1. Rönnerstrand, Björn & Andersson Sundell, Karolina, 2015. "Trust, reciprocity and collective action to fight antibiotic resistance. An experimental approach," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 249-255.
    2. Adjaye-Gbewonyo, Kafui & Kawachi, Ichiro & Subramanian, S.V. & Avendano, Mauricio, 2018. "High social trust associated with increased depressive symptoms in a longitudinal South African sample," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 197(C), pages 127-135.
    3. Mohamad Fahmi & Adiatma Siregar & Deni K Sunjaya & Gilang Amarullah & Rahma Rahma & Nur Afni Panjaitan, 2017. "Social Capital and Mental Health in Indonesia," Working Papers in Economics and Development Studies (WoPEDS) 201701, Department of Economics, Padjadjaran University, revised Sep 2017.
    4. Junfeng Jiang & Qingqun Li & Ru Kang & Peigang Wang, 2020. "Social Trust and Health: a Perspective of Urban-Rural Comparison in China," Applied Research in Quality of Life, Springer;International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, vol. 15(3), pages 737-756, July.
    5. Julia A Dalton & Dianne Rodger & Michael Wilmore & Sal Humphreys & Andrew Skuse & Claire T Roberts & Vicki L Clifton, 2018. "The Health-e Babies App for antenatal education: Feasibility for socially disadvantaged women," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 13(5), pages 1-18, May.
    6. Rodgers, Justin & Valuev, Anna V. & Hswen, Yulin & Subramanian, S.V., 2019. "Social capital and physical health: An updated review of the literature for 2007–2018," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 236(C), pages 1-1.
    7. Stephan Goetz & Meri Davlasheridze & Yicheol Han, 2015. "County-Level Determinants of Mental Health, 2002–2008," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 124(2), pages 657-670, November.
    8. Musalia, John, 2016. "Social capital and health in Kenya: A multilevel analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 167(C), pages 11-19.
    9. Aranda, Luis, 2015. "Doubling up: A gift or a shame? Intergenerational households and parental depression of older Europeans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 12-22.


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