JOURNAL ARTICLE

Influence of different domains of social capital on psychological distress among Croatian high school students

Dario Novak, Ichiro Kawachi
International Journal of Mental Health Systems 2015, 9: 18
25901179

BACKGROUND: Social capital has been shown to have positive effects on multiple health outcomes among young people (i.e., obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and infectious diseases). Studies are suggesting that social capital is an important asset for the health and wellbeing of children and adolescents, including for their mental health. We sought to examine the influences of different domains of social capital - in the family, in the neighbourhood, and at school - on levels of psychological distress among high school students in Croatia.

METHODS: Cross-sectional survey of 3427 high school students (1688 males and 1739 females), aged 17-18 years, was carried out in the 2013/14 school year (response rate: 93.8%). Logistic regression was used to examine the influence of family, neighbourhood and school social capital on the risk of high psychological distress, measured by the Kessler-6 scale.

RESULTS: Adjusting for age, school, gender, body mass index, self-perceived socioeconomic status, self-rated health and physical activity, high family support in school (OR 0.37; 95% CI: 0.27-0.51), high neighbourhood trust (OR 0.62; 95% CI: 0.53-0.73), high teacher-student interpersonal trust (OR 0.74; 95% CI: 0.62-0.89) and high student interpersonal trust (OR 0.79; 95% CI: 0.65-0.97) was each associated with lower odds of psychological distress. When all of the social capital variables were entered simultaneously, higher social capital in each domain was inversely associated with psychological distress.

CONCLUSIONS: Family support in school, neighbourhood trust, teacher-student interpersonal trust and student interpersonal trust were significantly inversely associated with psychological distress among adolescents. Intervention and policies that leverage community social capital might serve as means of mental health promotion among youth.

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