A multilevel analysis of social capital and self-rated health: evidence from the British Household Panel Survey

John W Snelgrove, Hynek Pikhart, Mai Stafford
Social Science & Medicine 2009, 68 (11): 1993-2001
Social capital is often described as a collective benefit engendered by generalised trust, civic participation, and mutual reciprocity. This feature of communities has been shown to associate with an assortment of health outcomes at several levels of analysis. The current study assesses the evidence for an association between area-level social capital and individual-level subjective health. Respondents participating in waves 8 (1998) and 9 (1999) of the British Household Panel Survey were identified and followed-up 5 years later in wave 13 (2003). Area social capital was measured by two aggregated survey items: social trust and civic participation. Multilevel logistic regression models were fitted to examine the association between area social capital indicators and individual poor self-rated health. Evidence for a protective association with current self-rated health was found for area social trust after controlling for individual characteristics, baseline self-rated health and individual social trust. There was no evidence for an association between area civic participation and self-rated health after adjustment. The findings of this study expand the literature on social capital and health through the use of longitudinal data and multilevel modelling techniques.

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