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Int J Epidemiol. 2008 Dec;37(6):1384-92. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyn181. Epub 2008 Sep 9.

The diversity in associations between community social capital and health per health outcome, population group and location studied.

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  • 1Centre for Prevention and Health Services Research, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.



Literature on the effect of community social capital on health is inconsistent and could be related to differences in social capital measures, health outcomes, population groups and locations studied. Therefore this study examines the diversity in associations between community social capital and health by investigating different diseases, populations groups and locations.


Mortality records and individual data on sex, age, marital status, ethnic origin and place of residence were available for 6 years (1995-2000). Neighbourhood data, i.e. community social capital, socio-economic level and urbanicity, were linked through postcode information. Community social capital was indicated by measures of community interaction, belongingness, satisfaction and involvement. Variations in all-cause and cause-specific mortality across low and high social capital neighbourhoods were estimated through Poisson regression. In addition, analyses were stratified according to population group and to urbanization level.


In the total population, community social capital was not related to all-cause mortality (RR = 1.00; CI: 0.99-1.01). However, residents of high social capital neighbourhoods had lower mortality risks for cancer [especially lung cancer (RR = 0.92; CI: 0.89-0.96)] and for suicide (RR = 0.90; CI: 0.83-0.98). Slightly lower mortality risks were also found for men (RR = 0.98; CI: 0.97-0.99), married individuals (RR = 0.96; CI: 0.94-0.97) and for residents living in socially strong neighbourhoods located in large cities (RR = 0.95; CI: 0.91-0.99).


The association between community social capital and health differs per health outcome, study population and location studied. This underlines the need to take such diversity into account when aiming to conceptualize the relation between community social capital and health.

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