Is Social Capital a Protective Factor Against Obesity and Diabetes? Findings From an Exploratory Study

David R. Holtgrave, Richard Crosby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: The aim of this exploratory study is to examine the relationship between social capital and the important public health variables of obesity and diabetes in the adult population in the United States. Methods: State-level correlational analyses were conducted. Predictor variables included social capital (Putnam's measure), income inequality, and poverty. Outcome variables were state-level rates of obesity and diabetes as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Results: Social capital and poverty had significant bivariate relationships with obesity and diabetes; multivariate linear regression showed social capital to be the strongest predictor of both outcome variables (explaining 10% of the variance in obesity and 44% of the variance in diabetes). Social capital was related inversely to both variables, indicating a protective effect. Sensitivity analyses showed that an alternate measure of income inequality had a bivariate relationship with diabetes, but was not as strong a predictor as social capital in multivariate analyses. Conclusions: These exploratory study results suggest that greater levels of social capital are protective against obesity and diabetes. This initial finding warrants subsequent empirical investigations designed to identify strategies that can be used to foster the creation of social capital in areas of the United States with an especially high prevalence of obesity and diabetes. In addition, these investigations should operate at multiple levels, examining individual, social-network, and community-level measures of social capital.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-408
Number of pages3
JournalAnnals of epidemiology
Volume16
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2006
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Diabetes
  • Income Inequality
  • Obesity
  • Poverty
  • Social Capital
  • Social Determinants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

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