, Volume 44, Issue 11, pp 971-977
Date: 11 Mar 2009

Social capital and suicide in 11 European countries: an ecological analysis

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Abstract

Background

“Social capital” refers to the existence of voluntary community networks and relationships based on trust, and the use of these networks and relationships to enable positive social action. Social capital is positively associated with selected indices of mental health.

Methods

We performed an ecological investigation of the relationship between social trust (as one component of social capital) and national suicide rates in 11 European countries (n = 22,227).

Results

There was an inverse relationship between social trust and national suicide rates (i.e. the higher the social trust, the lower was the suicide rate), after controlling for gender, age, marriage rates, standardised income and reported sadness.

Conclusions

Social capital may have a protective effect against suicide at the national level. Multi-level analysis, taking into account both group-level and individual-level variables, would help clarify this relationship further and guide appropriate interventions at both the group and individual levels.