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Network social capital, social participation, and physical inactivity in an urban adult population


  • Legh-Jones, Hannah
  • Moore, Spencer


Research on individual social capital and physical activity has tended to focus on the association among physical activity, generalized trust, and social participation. Less is known about the association between network social capital, i.e., the resources accessed through one’s social connections, and physical inactivity. Using formal network measures of social capital, this study examined which specific dimension of network capital (i.e. diversity, reach and range) was associated with physical inactivity, and whether network social capital mediated the association between physical inactivity and social participation. Data came from the 2008 Montreal (Canada) Neighbourhood Networks and Healthy Aging survey, in which 2707 adults 25 years and older in 300 Montreal neighbourhoods were surveyed. Physical activity was self-reported using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ). IPAQ guidelines provided the basis for the physical inactivity cutoff. Network social capital was measured with a position generator instrument. Multilevel logistic methods were used to examine the association between physical inactivity and individual social capital dimensions, while adjusting for socio-demographic and -economic factors. Higher network diversity was associated with a decreased likelihood of physical inactivity. Consistent with previous findings, individuals who did not participate in any formal associations were more likely to be physically inactive compared to those with high levels of participation. Network diversity mediated the association between physical inactivity and participation. Generalized trust and the network components of reach and range were not shown associated with physical inactivity. Findings highlight the importance of social participation and network social capital and the added value of network measures in the study of social capital and physical inactivity. Population-based programs targeting physical inactivity among adults might consider ecological-level interventions that leverage associational involvement and interpersonal relationships to improve population-level physical activity.

Suggested Citation

  • Legh-Jones, Hannah & Moore, Spencer, 2012. "Network social capital, social participation, and physical inactivity in an urban adult population," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(9), pages 1362-1367.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:74:y:2012:i:9:p:1362-1367
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.01.005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Greiner, K. Allen & Li, Chaoyang & Kawachi, Ichiro & Hunt, D. Charles & Ahluwalia, Jasjit S., 2004. "The relationships of social participation and community ratings to health and health behaviors in areas with high and low population density," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(11), pages 2303-2312, December.
    2. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1999:89:8:1187-1193_6 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Poortinga, Wouter, 2006. "Perceptions of the environment, physical activity, and obesity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(11), pages 2835-2846, December.
    4. Giles-Corti, Billie & Donovan, Robert J., 2002. "The relative influence of individual, social and physical environment determinants of physical activity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(12), pages 1793-1812, June.
    5. Cerin, Ester & Leslie, Eva, 2008. "How socio-economic status contributes to participation in leisure-time physical activity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(12), pages 2596-2609, June.
    6. Lindström, Martin & Hanson, Bertil S. & Östergren, Per-Olof, 2001. "Socioeconomic differences in leisure-time physical activity: the role of social participation and social capital in shaping health related behaviour," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 441-451, February.
    7. Berkman, Lisa F. & Glass, Thomas & Brissette, Ian & Seeman, Teresa E., 2000. "From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(6), pages 843-857, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hao Yuan, 2016. "Structural Social Capital, Household Income and Life Satisfaction: The Evidence from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong-Province, China," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 569-586, April.
    2. Bassett, Emma & Moore, Spencer, 2013. "Social capital and depressive symptoms: The association of psychosocial and network dimensions of social capital with depressive symptoms in Montreal, Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 96-102.
    3. Li, Ting & Zhang, Yanlong, 2015. "Social network types and the health of older adults: Exploring reciprocal associations," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 59-68.
    4. repec:eee:socmed:v:189:y:2017:i:c:p:105-113 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Rind, Esther & Jones, Andy, 2015. "“I used to be as fit as a linnet” – Beliefs, attitudes, and environmental supportiveness for physical activity in former mining areas in the North-East of England," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 110-118.


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