Social capital, political trust and self-reported psychological health: a population-based study

Martin Lindstrom, Mohabbat Mohseni
Social Science & Medicine 2009, 68 (3): 436-43
This study investigates the association between political trust (an aspect of institutional trust) in the Riksdag (the national parliament in Sweden) and self-reported psychological health, taking generalized (horizontal) trust in other people into account. The 2004 public health survey in Skåne in Southern Sweden is a cross-sectional postal questionnaire study that was answered by 27,757 respondents aged 18-80 yielding a 59% response rate. A logistic regression model was used to investigate the associations between political trust and self-reported psychological health adjusting for possible confounders (age, country of origin, education, economic stress and generalized trust in other people i.e. horizontal trust). We found that 13.0% of the men and 18.9% of the women reported poor psychological health. A total of 17.3% and 11.6% of the male and female respondents, respectively, reported that they had no trust at all in the national parliament, and another 38.2% and 36.2%, respectively, reported that their political trust was not particularly high. Respondents in younger age groups, born abroad, with high education, high levels of economic stress, low horizontal trust and low political trust had significantly higher levels of self-reported poor psychological health. There was a significant association between low political trust and low horizontal trust. After adjustments for age, country of origin, education and economic stress, the inclusion of horizontal trust reduced the odds ratios of self-reported poor psychological health in the "no political trust at all" category compared to the "very high political trust" category from 1.6 to 1.4 among men and from 1.7 to 1.4 among women. It is concluded that low political trust in the Riksdag seems to be significantly and positively associated with poor mental health.

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