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Perceptions of social capital and the built environment and mental health

Author

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  • Araya, Ricardo
  • Dunstan, Frank
  • Playle, Rebecca
  • Thomas, Hollie
  • Palmer, Stephen
  • Lewis, Glyn

Abstract

There has been much speculation about a possible association between the social and built environment and health, but the empirical evidence is still elusive. The social and built environments are best seen as contextual concepts but they are usually estimated as an aggregation of individual compositional measures, such as perceptions on trust or the desirability to live in an area. If these aggregated compositional measures were valid measures, one would expect that they would evince correlations at higher levels of data collection (e.g., neighbourhood). The aims of this paper are: (1) to investigate the factor structure of a self-administered questionnaire measuring individual perceptions of trust, social participation, social cohesion, social control, and the built environment; (2) to investigate variation in these factors at higher than the individual level (households and postcodes) in order to assess if these constructs reflect some contextual effect; and (3) to study the association between mental health, as measured by the General Health Questionnaire-12 (GHQ-12), and these derived factors. A cross-sectional household survey was undertaken during May-August 2001 in a district of South Wales with a population of 140,000. We found that factor analysis grouped our questions in factors similar to the theoretical ones we had previously envisaged. We also found that approximately one-third of the variance for neighbourhood quality and 10% for social control was explained at postcode (neighbourhood) level after adjusting for individual variables, thus suggesting that some of our compositional measures capture contextual characteristics of the built and social environment. After adjusting for individual variables, trust and social cohesion, two key social capital components were the only factors to show statistically significant associations with GHQ-12 scores. However, these factors also showed little variation at postcode levels, suggesting a stronger individual determination. We conclude that our results provide some evidence in support of an association between mental health (GHQ-12 scores) and perceptions of social capital, but less support for the contextual nature of social capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Araya, Ricardo & Dunstan, Frank & Playle, Rebecca & Thomas, Hollie & Palmer, Stephen & Lewis, Glyn, 2006. "Perceptions of social capital and the built environment and mental health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(12), pages 3072-3083, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:62:y:2006:i:12:p:3072-3083
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Eiji Yamamura, 2011. "Differences in the effect of social capital on health status between workers and non-workers," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 58(4), pages 385-400, December.
    2. Fiorillo, Damiano & Sabatini, Fabio, 2011. "Quality and quantity: the role of social interactions in individual health," AICCON Working Papers 84-2011, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
    3. Houle, Jason N., 2014. "Mental health in the foreclosure crisis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 1-8.
    4. Peter Howley, 2008. "An Exploration of Neighbourly Ties within Newly Regenerated Residential Areas," Working Papers 0826, Rural Economy and Development Programme,Teagasc.
    5. Sehee Han & Heaseung Kim & Hee-Sun Lee, 2013. "A Multilevel Analysis of the Compositional and Contextual Association of Social Capital and Subjective Well-Being in Seoul, South Korea," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 111(1), pages 185-202, March.
    6. 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.
    7. Yoon, Jangho & Brown, Timothy T., 2011. "Does the promotion of community social capital reduce obesity risk?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 296-305, May.
    8. Scheffler, Richard M. & Brown, Timothy T. & Rice, Jennifer K., 2007. "The role of social capital in reducing non-specific psychological distress: The importance of controlling for omitted variable bias," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(4), pages 842-854, August.
    9. Saharnaz Nedjat & Reza Majdzadeh & Azita Kheiltash & Ensiyeh Jamshidi & Shahryar Yazdani, 2013. "Social Capital in Association with Socioeconomic Variables in Iran," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 113(3), pages 1153-1170, September.
    10. Folland, Sherman, 2007. "Does "community social capital" contribute to population health?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(11), pages 2342-2354, June.
    11. 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.
    12. Lindstrom, Martin & Mohseni, Mohabbat, 2009. "Social capital, political trust and self-reported psychological health: A population-based study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 436-443, February.
    13. Bisung, Elijah & Elliott, Susan J., 2014. "Toward a social capital based framework for understanding the water-health nexus," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 194-200.

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