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J Epidemiol Community Health. Feb 2003; 57(2): 114–119.
PMCID: PMC1732386

Social capital in a changing society: cross sectional associations with middle aged female and male mortality rates


Objectives: Social capital has been linked to self rated health and mortality rates. The authors examined the relations between measures of social capital and male/female mortality rates across counties in Hungary.

Design: Cross sectional, ecological study.

Setting: 20 counties of Hungary.

Participants and methods: 12 640 people were interviewed in 1995 (the "Hungarostudy II" survey), representing the Hungarian population according to sex, age, and county. Social capital was measured by three indicators: lack of social trust, reciprocity between citizens, and help received from civil organisations. Covariates included county GDP, personal income, education, unemployment, smoking, and alcohol spirit consumption.

Main outcome measure: Gender specific mortality rates were calculated for the middle aged population (45–64 years) in the 20 counties of Hungary.

Results: All of the social capital variables were significantly associated with middle age mortality, but levels of mistrust showed the strongest association. Several gender differences were observed, namely male mortality rates were more closely associated with lack of help from civic organisations, while female mortality rates were more closely connected with perceptions of reciprocity.

Conclusion: There are gender differences in the relations of specific social capital indicators to mortality rates. At the same time, perceptions of social capital within each sex were associated with mortality rates in the opposite sex.

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Selected References

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