The importance of gender and conceptualization for understanding the association between collective social capital and health: A multilevel analysis from northern Sweden
Growing research on social capital and health has fuelled the debate on whether there is a place effect on health. A central question is whether health inequality between places is due to differences in the composition of people living in these places (compositional effect) or differences in the local social and physical environments (contextual effects). Despite extensive use of multilevel approaches that allows controlling for whether the effects of collective social capital are confounded by access to social capital at the individual level, the picture remains unclear. Recent studies indicate that contextual effects on health may vary for different population subgroups and measuring "average" contextual effects on health for a whole population might therefore be inappropriate. In this study from northern Sweden, we investigated the associations between collective social capital and self-rated health for men and women separately, to understand if health effects of collective social capital are gendered. Two measures of collective social capital were used: one conventional measure (aggregated measures of trust, participation and voting) and one specific place-related (neighbourhood) measure. The results show a positive association between collective social capital and self-rated health for women but not for men. Regardless of the measure used, women who live in very high social capital neighbourhoods are more likely to rate their health as good-fair, compared to women who live in very low social capital neighbourhoods. The health effects of collective social capital might thus be gendered in favour for women. However, a more equal involvement of men and women in the domestic sphere would potentially benefit men in this matter. When controlling for socioeconomic, sociodemographic and social capital attributes at the individual level, the relationship between women's health and collective social capital remained statistically significant when using the neighbourhood-related measure but not when using the conventional measure. Our results support the view that a neighbourhood-related measure provides a clearer picture of the health effects of collective social capital, at least for women.
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Volume (Year): 73 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (July)
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