Dynamic Social Capital and Mental Health in Late Life

Part of the International Perspectives on Aging book series (Int. Perspect. Aging, volume 11)


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.


Mental Health Depressive Symptom Social Capital Subjective Wellbeing Network Member 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The first two phases of the CrossSectional and Longitudinal Ageing Study (CALAS) were supported by grants from the US National Institute on Aging (R01-5885-03 and R01-5885-06); and conducted by the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center.


  1. Alexopoulos, G. S. (2005). Depression in the elderly. Lancet, 365, 1961–1970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allison, P. D. (2001). Missing data. Sage university papers series on quantitative applications in the social sciences. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  3. Almedom, A. M. (2005). Social capital and mental health: An interdisciplinary review of primary evidence. Social Science & Medicine, 61, 943–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Birditt, K. S., & Antonucci, T. C. (2007). Relationship quality profiles and well-being among married adults. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 595–604. Scholar
  5. Blazer, D., Burchett, B., Service, C., & George, L. K. (1991). The association of age and ­depression among the elderly: An epidemiologic exploration. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 46, 210–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blumstein, T., Benyamini, Y., Fuchs, Z., Shapira, Z., Novikov, I., Walter-Ginzburg, A., et al. (2004). The effects of a communal lifestyle on depressive symptoms in late life. Journal of Aging and Health, 16, 151–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (1985). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and ­research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  8. Buys, L., Roberto, K. A., Miller E., & Blieszner, R. (2008). Prevalence and predictors of ­depressive symptoms among rural older Australians and Americans. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 16, 33–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cagney, K. A., & Wen, M. (2008). Social capital and aging-related outcomes. In I. Kawachi, S. V. Subramanian, & D. Kim (Eds.), Social capital and health (pp. 239–258). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  10. Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. (pp. 300–321). Cambridge: Belknap.Google Scholar
  11. Cole, M. G., & Dendukuri, N. (2003). Risk factors for depression among elderly community ­subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 1147–1156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duberstein, P. R., Palsson, S. P., Waern M., & Skoog, I. (2008). Personality and risk for depression in a birth cohort of 70-year-olds followed for 15 years. Psychological Medicine, 38, 663–671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fiori, K. L., Antonucci T. C., & Cortina K. S. (2006). Social network typologies and mental health among older adults. The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 61B, 25–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fiori, K. L., Smith, J., & Antonucci, T. C. (2007). Social network types among older adults: A multidimensional approach. Journals of Gerontology Series B-Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 62, 322–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fiori, K. L., Antonucci, T. C., & Akiyama, H. (2008). Profiles of social relations among older adults: A cross-cultural approach. Ageing & Society, 28, 203–231.Google Scholar
  16. Fiori, K. L., & Jager, J. (2011). The impact of social support networks on mental and physical health in the transition to older adulthood: A longitudinal, pattern-centered approach. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 36, 117–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Foley, M., & Edwards, B. (1999). Is it time to disinvest in social capital? Journal of Public Policy, 19, 141–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. George, L. K. (1999). Life course perspective on mental health. In C. Aneshensel & J. Phelan (Eds.), Handbook of the sociology of mental illness (pp. 565–583). San Diego: Academic.Google Scholar
  19. Gerstorf, D., Ram, N., Roecke, N., Lindenberger, U., & Smith, J. (2008). Decline in life ­satisfaction in old age: Longitudinal evidence for links to distance-to-death. Psychology and Aging, 23, 154–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gonzalez Bailon, S. (2006). The role of dynamic networks in social capital: A simulation ­experiment. Revista de sociologia, 80, 171–194.Google Scholar
  21. Gray, A. (2009). The social capital of older people. Ageing & Society, 29, 5–31. Scholar
  22. Jeon, H. S., & Dunkle, R. E. (2009). Stress and depression among the oldest-old: A longitudinal analysis. Research on Aging, 31, 661–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kahn, R. L., & Antonucci, T. C. (1980). Convoys over the life course: attachment, roles, and social support. In B. P. Baltes & O. G. Brim (Eds.), Life-span development and behavior (pp. ­254–283). New-York: Academic.Google Scholar
  24. Keating, N., Otfinowski, P., Wenger, C., Fast, J., & Derksen, L. (2003). Understanding the caring capacity of informal networks of frail seniors: A case for care networks. Ageing and Society, 23, 115–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krishnan, K. R. R. (2002). Biological risk factors in late life depression. Biological Psychiatry, 52, 185–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lin, N. (2000). Inequality in social capital. Contemporary Sociology-a Journal of Reviews, 29, 785–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lin, N. (2001). Social capital: A theory of social structure and action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Scholar
  28. Litwin, H. (2001). Social network type and morale in old age. The Gerontologist, 41, 516–524. Scholar
  29. Litwin, H. (2006). Social networks and self-rated health. Journal of Aging and Health, 18, ­335–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Litwin, H. (2009). Social networks and well-being in socio-geographical context: A comparison of older people in Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean European countries. Gerontologist, 49, 488–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Litwin, H. (2011). The association between social network relationships and depressive symptoms among older Americans: What matters most? International Psychogeriatrics, 23, 930–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ma, X., Xiang, Y. T., Li, S. R., Xiang, Y. Q., Guo, H. L., Hou, Y. Z., et al.(2008). Prevalence and ­sociodemographic correlates of depression in an elderly population living with family ­members in Beijing, China. Psychological Medicine, 38, 1723–1730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mirowsky, J., & Ross, C.E. (1992). Age and depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 33, 187–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. MI FAQ page. (2011). The multiple imputation FAQ page. Accessed 13 Dec 2010.
  35. Nagi, S. Z. (1976). An epidemiology of disability among adults in the United States. Health and Society, 54, 439–467.Google Scholar
  36. Ngurah Darmawan, I. G. (2002). Norm software review: Handling missing values with multiple imputation methods. Evaluation Journal of Australasia, 2, 51–57.Google Scholar
  37. Nyqvist, F., Forsman, A. K., Giuntoli, G., & Cattan, M. (2013). Social capital as a resource for mental well-being in older people: A systematic review. Aging & Mental Health, 17(4), ­394–410. doi:10.1080/13607863.2012.742490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Palgi, Y., Shrira, A., Ben-Ezra, M., Spalter, T., Shmotkin, D., & Kave. G. (2010). Delineating terminal change in subjective well-being and subjective health. Journals of Gerontology Series B-Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 65, 61–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  40. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schillerstrom, J. E., Royall, D. R., & Palmer, R. F. (2008). Depression, disability and intermediate pathways: A review of longitudinal studies in elders. Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology, 21, 183–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shmotkin, D. (2008). Mental health and trauma among Israeli older adults (Hebrew). Bitahon Sociali, 76, 197–224.Google Scholar
  43. Song, L., Son, J., & Lin, N. (2010). Social capital and health. In W. C. Cockerham (Ed.), The new companion to medical sociology (pp. 184–210). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. SPSS. 17.0. Quick Cluster. Accessed 2 June 2009.
  45. Turvey, C. L., Schultz, S. K., Beglinger, L., & Klein, D. M. (2009). A longitudinal community-based study of chronic illness, cognitive and physical function, and depression. American ­Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 17, 632–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Van der Gaag, M., & Snijders, T. (2002). An approach to the measurement of individual social capital. In H. Flap & B. Volker (Eds.), Creation and returns of social capital. Amsterdam: Routledge Advances in Sociology.Google Scholar
  47. Vink, D., Aartsen, M. J., & Schoevers, R. A. (2008). Risk factors for anxiety and depression in the elderly: A review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 106, 29–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wenger, G. C. (1990). Change and adaptation in informal support networks of elderly people in Wales 1979–1987. Journal of Aging Studies, 4, 375–389. Scholar
  49. Wenger, G. C. (1997). Review of findings on support networks of older Europeans. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 12, 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Weyerer, S., Eifflaender-Gorfer, S., Kohler, L., Jessen, F., Maier, W., Fuchs, A., et al. (2008). Prevalence and risk factors for depression in non-demented primary care attenders aged 75 years and older. Journal of Affective Disorders, 111, 153–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wu, H. C., Schimmele, M., & Chappell, N. L. (2012). Aging and late-life depression. Journal of Aging and Health, 24(1), 3–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Yang, Y. (2007). Is old age depressing? Growth trajectories and cohort variations in late-life- ­depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 48, 16–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Center for Research and Study of AgingUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  3. 3.Yezreel Academic CollegeYezreel ValleyIsrael

Personalised recommendations