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Social capital and mental health: A comparative analysis of four low income countries


  • De Silva, Mary J.
  • Huttly, Sharon R.
  • Harpham, Trudy
  • Kenward, Michael G.


Women and the poor are disproportionately affected by common mental disorders (CMD), and women in low income countries are particularly at risk. Social capital may explain some of the geographical variation in CMD, but the association between social capital and CMD in low income countries has rarely been studied. This paper aims to explore the relationship between individual and ecological measures of social capital and maternal CMD in four low income countries. Cross-sectional data from the Young Lives (YL) study with information across 234 communities in Peru, Ethiopia, Vietnam and Andhra Pradesh (India) were used. The mental health of mothers of one-year-old children (n=6909), and the individual cognitive and structural social capital of all respondents was assessed. Ecological social capital was calculated by aggregating individual responses to the community level. Multi-level modelling was used to explore the association between individual and ecological (community level) social capital and maternal CMD in each of the four countries, adjusting for a wide range of individual and community level confounders. The analysis shows that individual cognitive social capital is associated with reduced odds of CMD across all four countries. The results for structural social capital are more mixed and culturally specific, with some aspects associated with increased odds of CMD. This suggests that structural social capital has context-specific effects and cognitive social capital more universal effects on maternal CMD.

Suggested Citation

  • De Silva, Mary J. & Huttly, Sharon R. & Harpham, Trudy & Kenward, Michael G., 2007. "Social capital and mental health: A comparative analysis of four low income countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 5-20, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:64:y:2007:i:1:p:5-20

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Harpham, Trudy & Grant, Emma & Rodriguez, Carlos, 2004. "Mental health and social capital in Cali, Colombia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(11), pages 2267-2277, June.
    3. Wight, Richard G. & Aneshensel, Carol S. & Botticello, Amanda L. & SepĂșlveda, Joslan E., 2005. "A multilevel analysis of ethnic variation in depressive symptoms among adolescents in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(9), pages 2073-2084, May.
    4. De Silva, Mary J & Harpham, Trudy & Tuan, Tran & Bartolini, Rosario & Penny, Mary E & Huttly, Sharon R, 2006. "Psychometric and cognitive validation of a social capital measurement tool in Peru and Vietnam," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(4), pages 941-953, February.
    5. 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.
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