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OP35 Is social capital higher in areas with a higher density of historic assets? Analyses of 11,112 adults living in England
  1. Hei Wan Mak1,
  2. Eirini Gallou2,
  3. Daisy Fancourt1
  1. 1Department of Behavioural Science and Health, University College London, London, UK
  2. 2Policy and Evidence, Historic England, London, UK


Background Previous evidence suggests that engagement with heritage such as visiting heritage sites provides benefits for people’s mental and social wellbeing, and helps to establish social capital. However, far less is known about whether living in areas of historic built environment also helps build social capital. Further, it remains unclear how the association between historic built environment and social capital may vary across heritage engagement frequency and areas of deprivation levels. This study was therefore designed to explore the cross-sectional relationship between historic built environment and social capital.

Methods Analysis was based on three datasets: Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study Waves 5 (2013/15) and 6 (2014/16), 2019 National Heritage List for England, and 2015 English Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). OLS regressions were applied to estimate the relationships between historic built environment (listed buildings, scheduled monuments, and registered parks and gardens) and social capital (personal relationships, social network support, civic engagement, and trust and cooperative norms). The models were adjusted for socio-demographic characteristics, cultural engagement frequency, and rurality.

Results We found that people living in places with greater historic built environment experienced higher levels of personal relationships, social network support and civic engagement. However, these associations were attenuated once rurality was adjusted. Individuals living in areas of greater levels of historic built environment displayed higher levels of trust and cooperative norms, even after adjusting for all relevant covariates. Heritage engagement frequency was found to moderate the association between historic built environment and personal relationships. Similarly, IMD was also found to moderate the association between historic built environment and trust and cooperative norms.

Conclusion These findings highlight the importance of neighbourhood environment in building social capital in communities. Particularly, areas with heritage assets may provide both socially inviting and aesthetically pleasing environments that could help strengthen community and restore pride in place. For individuals living in areas with low levels of historic built environment, it is crucial to ensure that they have equal access to historic assets (e.g. through local trips). Future research is required to further explore the quality of heritage sites and infrastructures, and more sophisticated geographical data analysis that takes into account of the distance between residential areas and heritage assets is needed.

  • Social capital
  • heritage engagement
  • neighbourhood

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