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Prospective study of workplace social capital and depression: are vertical and horizontal components equally important?
  1. Tuula Oksanen1,
  2. Anne Kouvonen2,
  3. Jussi Vahtera1,3,
  4. Marianna Virtanen4,
  5. Mika Kivimäki4,5
  1. 1Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Turku, Finland
  2. 2Institute of Work, Health & Organisations, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  3. 3University of Turku and Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
  4. 4Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland
  5. 5Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Tuula Oksanen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Lemminkäisenkatu 14-18 B, 20520 Turku, Finland; tuula.oksanen{at}


Background Recent studies have emphasised the multidimensional nature of the social capital concept, but it is not known whether the health effects of social capital vary by dimension. The objective of this study was to examine the vertical component (ie, respectful and trusting relationships across power differentials at work) and the horizontal component of workplace social capital (trust and reciprocity between employees at the same hierarchical level) as risk factors for subsequent depression.

Methods A cohort of 25 763 Finnish public sector employees who were initially free from depression was followed up on average 3.5 years for new self-reported physician-diagnosed depression and recorded antidepressant prescriptions derived from national registers.

Results Factor analysis confirmed the existence of vertical and horizontal components of workplace social capital. The odds for new physician-diagnosed depression and antidepressant treatment were 30–50% higher for employees with low vertical or horizontal workplace social capital than for their counterparts with high social capital at work. In mutually adjusted models, vertical and horizontal social capital remained independent predictors of physician-diagnosed depression and antidepressant treatment.

Conclusion These results highlight the importance of both vertical and horizontal components of workplace social capital as predictors of employee mental health.

  • Social capital
  • depression
  • cohort studies
  • public sector
  • workplace

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  • Funding This work was supported by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, the Academy of Finland (projects 117604, 124271, 124322 and 129262) and the participating organisations.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Ethics Committee of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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