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Health implications of access to social capital: findings from an Australian study


  • Ziersch, Anna M.


This paper considers the health implications of access to social capital (SC) using data from a survey of households in two suburbs in Adelaide, Australia. SC was conceptualised as comprising 'infrastructure'--the networks and values that facilitate access to resources; and 'resources'--the resources available through this infrastructure. Questionnaires were delivered to all households in the area, asking the adult with the next birthday to complete it. In all, 530 (50%) were returned. A partial least-squares path analysis was undertaken using demographic, SC and health latent variables, and a measure of perceived relative advantage. Three infrastructure (values, formal networks and informal networks) and four resource (help, acceptance by neighbours, civic activities and feelings of control) variables were considered. Mental and physical health were measured using the SF-12. The values variable was associated with all the resource variables, the informal networks variable was related to help, and the formal networks variable was associated with civic actions. There were significant sociodemographic differences in a number of the infrastructure and resource variables, as well as mental and physical health. Those who were better off materially also had greater access to elements of SC, and reported better health. Values, informal networks, help, and control were all directly or indirectly positively associated with better mental health. No SC variables were associated with physical health. Perceived relative advantage was positively associated with a number of SC variables and also mental and physical health. The implications for health promotion are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Ziersch, Anna M., 2005. "Health implications of access to social capital: findings from an Australian study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(10), pages 2119-2131, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:61:y:2005:i:10:p:2119-2131

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hean, Sarah & Cowley, Sarah & Forbes, Angus & Griffiths, Peter & Maben, Jill, 2003. "The M-C-M' cycle and social capital," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 1061-1072, March.
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    5. Ziersch, Anna M & Baum, Fran E & MacDougall, Colin & Putland, Christine, 2005. "Neighbourhood life and social capital: the implications for health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 71-86, January.
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    7. Woolcock, Michael & Narayan, Deepa, 2000. "Social Capital: Implications for Development Theory, Research, and Policy," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 15(2), pages 225-249, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Engström, Karin & Mattsson, Fredrik & Järleborg, Anders & Hallqvist, Johan, 2008. "Contextual social capital as a risk factor for poor self-rated health: A multilevel analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(11), pages 2268-2280, June.
    2. Landstedt, Evelina & Almquist, Ylva B. & Eriksson, Malin & Hammarström, Anne, 2016. "Disentangling the directions of associations between structural social capital and mental health: Longitudinal analyses of gender, civic engagement and depressive symptoms," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 135-143.
    3. Eriksson, Malin & Ng, Nawi, 2015. "Changes in access to structural social capital and its influence on self-rated health over time for middle-aged men and women: A longitudinal study from northern Sweden," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 250-258.
    4. Neena Chappell & Laura Funk, 2010. "Social Capital: Does it Add to the Health Inequalities Debate?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 99(3), pages 357-373, December.
    5. Berry, Helen Louise & Rodgers, Bryan & Dear, Keith B.G., 2007. "Preliminary development and validation of an Australian community participation questionnaire: Types of participation and associations with distress in a coastal community," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(8), pages 1719-1737, April.
    6. Stavros Petrou & Emil Kupek, 2008. "Social capital and its relationship with measures of health status: evidence from the Health Survey for England 2003," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(1), pages 127-143.
    7. Stephens, Christine, 2008. "Social capital in its place: Using social theory to understand social capital and inequalities in health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(5), pages 1174-1184, March.
    8. Mithen, Johanna & Aitken, Zoe & Ziersch, Anne & Kavanagh, Anne M., 2015. "Inequalities in social capital and health between people with and without disabilities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 26-35.
    9. Webber, Martin P. & Huxley, Peter J., 2007. "Measuring access to social capital: The validity and reliability of the Resource Generator-UK and its association with common mental disorder," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 481-492, August.
    10. Verhaeghe, Pieter-Paul & Tampubolon, Gindo, 2012. "Individual social capital, neighbourhood deprivation, and self-rated health in England," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 349-357.
    11. Cretien Campen & Marc Santvoort, 2013. "Explaining Low Subjective Well-Being of Persons with Disabilities in Europe: The Impact of Disability, Personal Resources, Participation and Socio-Economic Status," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 111(3), pages 839-854, May.
    12. Siahpush, Mohammad & Borland, Ron & Taylor, Janet & Singh, Gopal K. & Ansari, Zahid & Serraglio, Adrian, 2006. "The association of smoking with perception of income inequality, relative material well-being, and social capital," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(11), pages 2801-2812, December.


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