Group involvement and self-rated health among the Japanese elderly: An examination of bonding and bridging social capital

Yoko Kishimoto, Etsuji Suzuki, Toshihide Iwase, Hiroyuki Doi, Soshi Takao

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Background: To date, only a small amount of research on bonding/bridging social capital has separately examined their effects on health though they have been thought to have differential effects on health outcomes. By using a large population-based sample of elderly Japanese people, we sought to investigate the association between bonding and bridging social capital and self-rated health for men and women separately. Methods. In August 2010, questionnaires were sent to all residents aged ≥65 years in three municipalities in Okayama prefecture (n = 21232), and 13929 questionnaires were returned (response rate: 65.6%). Social capital was measured from survey responses to questions on participation in six different types of groups: a) the elderly club or sports/hobby/culture circle; b) alumni association; c) political campaign club; d) citizen's group or environmental preservation activity; e) community association; and f) religious organization. Participant perception of group homogeneity (gender, age, and previous occupation) was used to divide social capital into bonding or bridging. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for poor self-rated health were calculated. Results: A total of 11146 subjects (4441 men and 6705 women) were available for the analysis. Among men, bonding and bridging social capital were inversely associated with poor self-rated health (high bonding social capital; OR: 0.55, 95% CI: 0.31-0.99; high bridging social capital; OR: 0.62, 95% CI: 0.48-0.81) after adjusting for age, educational attainment, smoking status, frequency of alcohol consumption, overweight, living arrangements, and type-D personality. The beneficial effect among women was more likely limited to bonding social capital (high bonding social capital; OR: 0.34, 95% CI: 0.12-1.00), and the association between bridging social capital and self-rated health was less clear (high bridging social capital; OR: 0.69, 95% CI: 0.44-1.07). Conclusions: Bonding/bridging social capital could have differential associations with self-rated health among the Japanese elderly depending on the individual's sex. Considering the lack of consensus on how to measure bonding and bridging social capital, however, we need to carefully assess the generalizability of our findings. Further research is warranted to identify health-relevant dimensions of social capital in different cultural or economic settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1189
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 17 2013


  • Bonding
  • Bridging
  • Elderly
  • Self-rated health
  • Social capital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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