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Social capital: An individual or collective resource for health?

Listed author(s):
  • Poortinga, Wouter
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    Although it is now widely acknowledged that the social environment plays an important role in people's health and well-being, there is considerable disagreement about whether social capital is a collective attribute of communities or societies, or whether its beneficial properties are associated with individuals and their social relationships. Using data from the European Social Survey (22 countries, N=42,358), this study suggests that, rather than having a contextual influence on health, the beneficial properties of social capital can be found at the individual level. Individual levels of social trust and civic participation were strongly associated with self-rated health. At the same time, the aggregate social trust and civic participation variables at the national level were not related to people's subjective health after controlling for compositional differences in socio-demographics. Despite the absence of a main contextual effect, the current study found a more complex cross-level interaction for social capital. Trusting and socially active individuals more often report good or very good health in countries with high levels of social capital than individuals with lower levels of trust and civic participation, but are less likely to do so in countries with low levels of social capital. This suggests that social capital does not uniformly benefit individuals living in the same community or society.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277-9536(05)00290-X
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 62 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 2 (January)
    Pages: 292-302

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:62:y:2006:i:2:p:292-302
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    1. Hawe, Penelope & Shiell, Alan, 2000. "Social capital and health promotion: a review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(6), pages 871-885, September.
    2. Lochner, Kimberly A. & Kawachi, Ichiro & Brennan, Robert T. & Buka, Stephen L., 2003. "Social capital and neighborhood mortality rates in Chicago," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1797-1805, April.
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    4. Caughy, Margaret O'Brien & O'Campo, Patricia J. & Muntaner, Carles, 2003. "When being alone might be better: neighborhood poverty, social capital, and child mental health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 227-237, July.
    5. Mohan, John & Twigg, Liz & Barnard, Steve & Jones, Kelvyn, 2005. "Social capital, geography and health: a small-area analysis for England," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(6), pages 1267-1283, March.
    6. Veenstra, Gerry, 2005. "Location, location, location: contextual and compositional health effects of social capital in British Columbia, Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(9), pages 2059-2071, May.
    7. Lomas, Jonathan, 1998. "Social capital and health: Implications for public health and epidemiology," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 47(9), pages 1181-1188, November.
    8. Veenstra, Gerry, 2000. "Social capital, SES and health: an individual-level analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(5), pages 619-629, March.
    9. Cattell, Vicky, 2001. "Poor people, poor places, and poor health: the mediating role of social networks and social capital," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(10), pages 1501-1516, May.
    10. Robert Stimson & John Western & Scott Baum & Yolanda Van Gellecum, 2003. "Measuring Community Strength and Social Capital," ERSA conference papers ersa03p521, European Regional Science Association.
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