Social Capital and Mental Health: Public Perceptions of Mental Illness and the Accrual of Social Capital
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As much as the psychosocial nature of mental illness cannot be ignored, it is generally agreed that social ties play a beneficial role in the maintenance of psychological well-being. Small social networks, few close relationships, and low perceived adequacy of social support and quality of life have all been linked to depressive symptoms. Conversely, the challenges of establishing a causal relationship to social ties are generally greater for mental health than they are for other health outcomes. The purpose of the present study was to identify the association between social capital and overall psychological well-being among Canadian citizens aged 12 and older, by conducting a secondary analysis of microdata using the 2009/2010 cross-sectional Canadian Community Health Survey. The present study included a weighted sample of 124,188 individuals aged 12 years or older who participated in the Canadian Community Health Survey from 2009-2010. Ordinal regression was used to examine the association between self-perceived mental health and social capital in the context of community involvement and sense of belonging in the community. Respondents who felt a sense of belonging in their local community reported mental health superior to individuals who did not have a community-based sense of belonging. This association was explained by respondent’s age, sex, marital status and was mediated by voluntary organization membership and immigration status. Results provided evidence of a relationship between elements of social capital and mental health. Positive social relationships and civic engagement are relevant to positive mental health.