Neighbourhood social capital and adolescent self-reported wellbeing in New Zealand: a multilevel analysis

Kaveh Aminzadeh, Simon Denny, Jennifer Utter, Taciano L Milfont, Shanthi Ameratunga, Tasileta Teevale, Terryann Clark
Social Science & Medicine 2013, 84: 13-21
The association between neighbourhood social capital and individual health and wellbeing has been explored mainly by focussing on adult outcomes. This study explores the relationship between neighbourhood social capital and adolescent subjective wellbeing, and its interaction with adolescents' socioeconomic status. Data was taken from a random sample of 9107 students who participated in a nationally representative health survey of high school students in New Zealand in 2007. Students' wellbeing was measured by questions on general mood, life satisfaction and WHO-5 Wellbeing Index. Neighbourhood social capital was assessed according to five indicators: neighbourhood social cohesion, facilities, physical disintegration, membership in community organisations, and residential stability. All neighbourhood measures were created based on students' responses aggregated to the neighbourhood level. Neighbourhood was defined as a Census Area Unit, with a median population of 2000 people. Analyses included only neighbourhoods with more than 10 students, and were conducted using cross-classified random intercept multilevel models controlling for students' age, sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, with both schools and neighbourhoods treated as random effects. A total of 5567 students within 262 neighbourhoods were considered in the analysis. Students living in neighbourhoods characterised by higher levels of social cohesion and membership in community organisations reported higher levels of wellbeing. The association between student self-reported wellbeing and neighbourhood membership in community organisations varied according to the individual socioeconomic status of students. Neighbourhood membership in community organisations showed a stronger protective effect for students who were more socioeconomically deprived.

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