Self-rated Health and Social Capital Among Aging People Across the Urban-Rural Dimension

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Abstract

Background

Previous studies have found self-rated health to be associated with social capital. However, there is lack of studies examining social capital among aging people and its impact on self-rated health in the urban-rural context.

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to investigate associations between self-rated health and indicators of social capital (trust, various social contacts, social participation, and access to help) among aging people living in urban and rural areas in Finland.

Method

A postal survey was conducted in 2002 among men and women born in 1926-1930, 1936-1940, or 1946-1950 and dwelling in 14 municipalities in the Päijät-Häme hospital district in Finland. A total of 2,815 participants represented 66% of the original stratified (by age, gender, and municipality) sample. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine the associations.

Results

Active social participation and easy access to help from others were associated with good self-rated health, especially in the urban and sparsely populated rural areas. Trust was a particularly important correlate of subjective health in the urban area, though its significance diminished after adjusting to all background variables. No overall disparities in self-rated health between the areas emerged. Social participation and access to help as indicators of social capital seem to be important resources when aging men and women assess their subjective health.

Conclusion

Increasing efforts to encourage social participation and facilitate access to help from other persons should be included among the key priorities in community health promotion.

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