Dynamic Social Capital and Mental Health in Late Life
The concept of social capital (SOC) encompasses a network that comprises different types of social ties, the resources that flow in the network and the potential or practical accessibility of these resources for the focal person. The impact of different types of SOC and their changing patterns on changes in older adults’ mental health is at the core of this study. Analyses were performed on data collected at two study time points, as part of the Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Aging Study (CALAS) in Israel. Cluster analysis and linear regression models were estimated.
Findings show a hierarchy of five types of SOC. Two of these, the “Diverse, Mutual” and “Local, Supported” types, lowered significantly the chance of decreased mental health during the aging process after controlling for sociodemographic and functioning covariates, in comparison with the “Limited” type. Continuity in strong SOC and upgrade to a better type of SOC also reduced the likelihood of decline in mental health in comparison to continuity in weak SOC. This relationship, however, does not hold after controlling for sociodemographic factors and functioning. The productivity of older adults’ social capital is high when it moderates the impairment of mental health. That means that social ties, their mutually exchanged resources and their availability to older adults throughout late life constitute an important element in the evaluation of older adults’ subjective wellbeing.
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