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Social capital and self-rated health in urban low income neighbourhoods in Chile
  1. J C Sapag1,
  2. M Aracena2,
  3. L Villarroel3,
  4. F Poblete1,
  5. C Berrocal1,
  6. R Hoyos2,
  7. M Martínez2,
  8. I Kawachi4
  1. 1
    Department of Family Medicine, School of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
  2. 2
    School of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
  3. 3
    Department of Public Health, School of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
  4. 4
    Department of Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health. Director, Harvard Center for Society and Health, Boston, USA
  1. Dr J C Sapag, Departamento de Medicina Familiar, Escuela de Medicina, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Lira 40, Santiago, Santiago 10, Chile; jsapag{at}


Objective: To examine the potential association between social capital and self-rated health within a low income community of Santiago, Chile.

Method: Cross-sectional survey, based on in-home interviews in the municipality of Puente Alto in Santiago, Chile. The participants were 781 residents of four neighbourhoods within Puente Alto (mean age 45.5 years).

Results: Principal components analysis with varimax rotation identified five domains of social capital: perceived trust in neighbours, perceived trust in organisations, reciprocity within the neighbourhood, neighbourhood integration, and social participation (Cronbach alphas: 0.58 to 0.77). Trust and reciprocity were significantly associated with better self-rated health. For example, a one standard deviation increase in trust in neighbours was associated with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.10 (95% confidence interval, CI: 1.05 to 1.15) for reporting good self-rated health. By contrast, social participation was associated with a lower odds (0.89, 95% CI: 0.89 to 1.06) of reporting good health.

Conclusion: Neighbourhood social cohesion, measured by trust and reciprocity, is associated with higher self-rated health. However, social participation did not appear to be associated with better health in this predominantly low income neighbourhood. These findings provide preliminary support to the relevance for social capital as a determinant of health in Chile.

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  • Funding: Supported by grant 1050709/2005 from FONDECYT.

  • Competing interests: None.

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