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Soc Sci Med. 2008 Feb;66(3):637-49. Epub 2007 Nov 19.

Social capital at work as a predictor of employee health: multilevel evidence from work units in Finland.

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  • 1Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Turku, Finland. tuula.oksanen@ttl.fi

Abstract

The majority of previous research on social capital and health is limited to social capital in residential neighborhoods and communities. Using data from the Finnish 10-Town study we examined social capital at work as a predictor of health in a cohort of 9524 initially healthy local government employees in 1522 work units, who did not change their work unit between 2000 and 2004 and responded to surveys measuring social capital at work and health at both time-points. We used a validated tool to measure social capital with perceptions at the individual level and with co-workers' responses at the work unit level. According to multilevel modeling, a contextual effect of work unit social capital on self-rated health was not accounted for by the individual's socio-demographic characteristics or lifestyle. The odds for health impairment were 1.27 times higher for employees who constantly worked in units with low social capital than for those with constantly high work unit social capital. Corresponding odds ratios for low and declining individual-level social capital varied between 1.56 and 1.78. Increasing levels of individual social capital were associated with sustained good health. In conclusion, this longitudinal multilevel study provides support for the hypothesis that exposure to low social capital at work may be detrimental to the health of employees.

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