Examining Social Capital and Depressive Symptoms: Tackling Measurement Debates, Neighbourhood Correlates, and Gender Differences

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Bassett, Emma
neighbourhood , gender , depressive symptoms , social capital , networks , depression
Depression is the most common mental illness worldwide, and although aspects of the social environment, including social capital and neighbourhood disadvantage, have been linked to depression, the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Debates within the social capital and neighbourhood disadvantage literatures have yielded mixed findings in studies of depression and an understanding of how social capital may differentially relate to symptomatology in men and women must be solidified. In the first manuscript of this thesis, I assess whether (1) network and psychosocial measures of individual social capital are each associated with depressive symptoms, and (2) the association varies according to whether the capital lies outside or inside an individual’s neighbourhood. The second manuscript investigates whether: (1) neighbourhood disadvantage has a stronger association with depression in women compared to men and (2) if specific social capital factors mediate the association between neighbourhood disadvantage and depression. Data came from the Montreal Neighbourhood Networks and Healthy Aging Study conducted in 2008. Data included telephone interview responses from 2624 adults from 300 census tracts in the Montreal metropolitan area. The CESD-10 instrument was used to assess depressive symptoms. Name and position generator instruments and self-reported questions were used to assess psychosocial and network components of social capital. Multilevel logistic regressions adjusted for a range of socio-demographic and economic characteristics. Manuscript 1 results indicated that core tie diversity as well as the psychosocial measures of generalized trust, trust in neighbours, and perceptions of neighbourhood cohesion may be beneficial to those suffering from depressive symptoms. Manuscript 2 results, stratified by gender, indicated that neighbourhood disadvantage was associated with depressive symptoms in women only and that perceived neighbourhood cohesion mediated this association. Core tie diversity, generalized trust and trust in neighbours were associated with depression in women but did not act as mediating variables. It is suggested that network and psychosocial, as well as general- and neighbourhood specific measures of social capital be included in studies of depressive symptoms. Health promotion initiatives meant to combat depression may wish to consider the gender differences in the design and implementation of neighbourhood or peer-based programs.
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