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26-07-2017 | Brief Communication | Uitgave 5/2018 Open Access

Quality of Life Research 5/2018

Social capital dynamics and health in mid to later life: findings from Australia

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 5/2018
Vasoontara Yiengprugsawan, Jennifer Welsh, Hal Kendig
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s11136-017-1655-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



The influence of social capital has been shown to improve health and wellbeing. This study investigates the relationship between changes in social capital and health outcomes during a 6-year follow-up in mid to later life in Australia.


Nationally representative data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey included participants aged 45 years and over who responded in 2006, 2010 and 2012 (N = 3606). Each of the three components of social capital (connectedness, trust and participation) was measured in Waves 2006 and 2010 and categorised as: ‘never low’, ‘transitioned to low’, ‘transitioned out of low’ and ‘consistently low’. Health outcomes in 2012 included self-rated overall health, physical functioning, and mental health based on the Short Form 36-item health survey (SF-36). Multivariable logistic regression assessed changes in social capital (measured in 2006 and 2010) predicted poor health (measured in 2012), adjusting for covariates.


Consistently low trust was significantly associated with higher odds of transitions into poor physical functioning (AOR 1.54; 95% Confidence Interval 1.06–1.22), poor mental health (AOR 1.59; 95% CI 1.08–2.36) and poor self-rated health (AOR 1.86; 95% CI 1.27–2.72). Transition into low trust was also a predictor of poor self-rated health after adjusting for covariates (AOR 1.74; 95% CI 1.11–2.73). Changes in social connectedness in both directions (transitioned out of and into low) were statistically associated with poor self-rated health (AORs 1.40; 95% CI 1.00–1.97 and 1.61; 95% CI 1.11–2.34, respectively) after adjusting for confounders as well as other social capital components.


Our longitudinal findings reveal social capital dynamics and effects on health in mid to later life. Social trust and connectedness could be important enablers for older persons to be more active in the community and potentially benefit their health and wellbeing over time.

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