Neighbourhood Social Capital and Women’s Self-Rated Health – Is There an Age Pattern? A Multi-Level Study from Northern Sweden

  • Malin ErikssonEmail author
  • Nawi Ng
Part of the International Perspectives on Aging book series (Int. Perspect. Aging, volume 11)


Existing knowledge on the link between neighbourhood social capital and health suggests that associations vary for different population sub-groups. Previous studies show positive health effects of living in a high social capital neighbourhood for women but not for men. Beyond a gendered pattern, there are reasons to believe that the association between neighbourhood social capital and health differ by age. Even if access to (individual) social capital is likely to decrease by age, the health benefits from living in a high social capital neighbourhood might be greater for older than younger people. This study aimed to investigate the associations between neighbourhood social capital and self-rated health for women in different age groups, to understand if the health effects of neighbourhood social capital are influenced by age. Multilevel regression analyses included data on 3230 women (level 1) nested within 49 neighbourhoods (level 2) in the Umeå region in Northern Sweden. The results show that living in a high social capital neighbourhood increases the OR for good–fair self-rated health for older women (60–84 years), while no significant associations was found for middle-aged (31–59 years) and younger (18–34 years) women. Since community involvement tends to be gendered in that women throughout life are expected to be those “creating community”, the health benefits of living in a high social capital neighbourhood for older women might come as a reward after a life-long “duty” of supporting others. A more equal involvement of men and women in community life would potentially benefit younger women, as well as men in all ages.


Social Capital Collective Efficacy Living Environment Neighbourhood Social Capital Disability Retirement 
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.


  1. Baum, F. E., Ziersch, A. M., Zhang, G., & Osborne, K. (2009). Do perceived neighborhood cohesion and safety contribute to neighborhood differences in health? Health & Place, 15, 925–934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berkman, L. F., & Glass, T. (2000). Social integration, social networks, social support, and health. In L.F. Berkman & I. Kawachi (Eds.), Social epidemiology (pp. 137–173). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). Westport: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  4. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Campbell, C. (2000). Social capital and health: Contextualizing health promotion within local community networks. In S. Baron, J. Field, & T. Schuller (Eds.), Social capital: Critical perspectives (pp. 182–196). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Campbell, C., Wood, R., & Kelly, M. (1999). Social capital and health. London: Health Education Authority.Google Scholar
  7. Cannuscio, C., Block, J., & Kawachi, I. (2003). Social capital and successful aging: The role of senior housing. Annual Internal Medicine, 139, 395–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Connell, R. W. (2002). Gender: Short introductions. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cramm, J. M., van Dijk, H. M., & Nieboer, A. P. (2012). The importance of neighborhood social cohesion and social capital for the well being of older adults in the community. The Gerontologist, 53, 142–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Diez Roux, A. V. (2001). Investing neighborhood and area effects on health. American Journal of Public health, 91, 1783–1789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diez Roux, A. V. (2004). The study of group-level factors in epidemiology: Rethinking variables, study designs, and analytical approaches. Epidemiologic Reviews, 26, 104–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Emmelin, M., & Eriksson, M. (2012). Kan socialt kapital “byggas in” i våra bostadsområden och därmed förbättra invånarnas upplevda och mentala hälsa? Malmö: Kommissionen för ett socialt hållbart Malmö. [Can social capital be “built” in our neighborhoods, and thereby improving residents’ perceived and mental health? Commission for a socially sustainable Malmö]Google Scholar
  13. Engström, K., Mattsson, F., Järleborg, A., & Hallqvist, J. (2008). Contextual social capital as a risk factor for poor self rated health: A multilevel analysis. Social Science & Medicine, 66, 2268–2280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eriksson, M., & Emmelin, M. (2013). What constitutes a health-enabling neighborhood? A grounded theory situational analysis addressing the significance of social capital and gender. Social Science & Medicine, 97, 112–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eriksson, M., Dahlgren, L., Janlert, U., Weinehall, L., & Emmelin, M. (2010). Social capital, gender, and educational level—Impact on self-rated health. The Open Public Health Journal, 3, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eriksson, M., Ng, N., Weinehall, L., & Emmelin, M. (2011). The importance of gender and conceptualization for understanding the association between collective social capital and health: A multilevel analysis from northern Sweden. Social Science & Medicine, 73, 264–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Glass, T., & Balfour, J. L. (2003). Neighborhoods, aging, and functional limitations. In I. Kawachi & L. F. Berkman (Eds.), Neighborhoods and health (pp. 303–334). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Harrysson, L. (2013). An equal share, that’s my medicine. Doctoral dissertation, Umeå University, Umeå.Google Scholar
  19. Jeffords, C. R. (1983). The situational relationship between age and the fear of crime. International Journal on Aging and Human Development, 17, 103–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kavanagh, A. M., Bentley, R., Turrell, G., Broom, D. H., & Subramanian, S. V. (2006). Does gender modify associations between self-rated health and the social and economic characteristics of local environments? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60, 490–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kawachi, I., & Berkman, L. (2001). Social ties and mental health. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 78, 458–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kawachi, I., Subramanian, S. V., & Kim, D. (2008) Social capital and health: A decade of progress and beyond. In I. Kawachi, S. V. Subramanian, & D. Kim (Eds.), Social Capital and Health (pp. 1–26). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kim, D., Subramanian, S. V., & Kawachi, I. (2006). Bonding versus bridging social capital and their associations with self-rated health: A multilevel analysis of 40 US communities. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 60, 116–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kim, D., Subramanian, S. V., & Kawachi, I. (2008). Social capital and physical health: A systematic review of the literature. In I. Kawachi, S. V. Subramanian, & D. Kim (Eds.), Social Capital and Health (pp. 139–190). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Leinonen, R., Heikkinen, E., & Jylhä, M. (2002). Changes in health, functional performance and activity changes in self-rated health. A 10-year follow-up study in older people. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 35, 79–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Locher, J. L., Ritchie, C. S., Roth, D. L., Sawyer Baker, P., Bodner, E. V., & Allman, R. M. (2005). Social isolation, support and capital and nutritional risk in an older sample: Ethnic and gender differences. Social Science & Medicine, 60, 747–761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Macintyre, S., Ellaway, A., & Cummins, S. (2002). Place effects on health: How can we conceptualize, operationalize and measure them. Social Science & Medicine, 55, 125–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McDonald, S., & Mair, C. A. (2010). Social capital across the life course: Age and gendered patterns of network resources. Sociological Forum, 25, 335–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mohnen, S., Groenewegen, P. P., Völker, B., & Flap, H. (2011). Neighborhood social capital and individual health. Social Science & Medicine, 72, 660–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nyqvist, F., Nygård, M., & Jakobsson, G. (2012). Social participation, interpersonal trust, and health: A study of 65- and 75-year-olds in western Finland. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 40, 431–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Poortinga, W. (2006). Social relations or social capital? Individual and community health effects of bonding social capital. Social Science & Medicine, 63, 255–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Portes, A. (1998). Social capital: Its origins and applications in modern sociology. Annual Reviews Sociology, 24, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Putnam, R. D. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  35. Robert, S. A., & Li, L. W. (2001). Age variation in the relationship between community socioeconomic status and adult health. Research on Aging, 23, 234–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rostila, M. (2008). Healthy bridges. Studies of social capital, welfare, and health. Doctoral dissertation, Stockholm University, Stockholm.Google Scholar
  37. Snelgrove, J. W., Pikhart, H., & Stafford, M. (2009). A multilevel analysis of social capital and self-rated health: Evidence from the British household panel survey. Social Science & Medicine, 68, 1993–2001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Son, J., & Lin, N. (2008). Social capital and civic action: A network-based approach. Social Science Research, 37, 330–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stafford, M., Cummins, S., Macintyre, S., Ellaway, A., & Marmot, M. (2005). Gender differences in the associations between health and neighbourhood environment. Social Science & Medicine, 60, 1681–1692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sundquist, K., & Yang, M. (2007). Linking social capital and self-rated health: A multilevel analysis of 11,175 men and women in Sweden. Health & Place, 13, 324–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Szreter, S., & Woolcock, M. (2004). Health by association? Social capital, social theory, and the political economy of public health. International Journal of Epidemiology, 33, 650–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wen, M., Cagney, K. A., & Christakis, N. (2005). Effect of specific aspects of community social environment on the mortality of individuals diagnosed with serious illness. Social Science & Medicine, 61, 1119–1134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ziersch, A. M. (2005). Health implications of access to social capital: Findings from an Australian study. Social Science & Medicine, 61, 2119–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Unit of Epidemiology and Global Health, Umeå Centre for Global Health ResearchUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden

Personalised recommendations