To study the association between structural and cognitive aspects of social capital and depression among older adults in two Nordic regions.
Data were retrieved from a postal survey targeting older adults aged 65, 70, 75 and 80 years (N=6 838, response rate=64%) residing in the Västerbotten region (Sweden), and the Österbotten region (Finland) in 2010. The associations between structural (measured by frequency of social contact with friends and neighbours) and cognitive (measured by experienced trust in friends and neighbours) aspects of social capital and depression (measured by Geriatric Depression Scale, GDS-4) were tested by logistic regression analyses.
Both low structural and cognitive social capital as defined in the study showed statistically significant associations with depression in older adults. Only experienced trust in neighbours failed to show significant association with depression. In addition, being single and being 80 years of age indicated a higher risk of depression as defined by GDS-4.
The findings underline the connection between adequate levels of both structural and cognitive individual social capital and mental health in later life. They also suggest that the connection differs depending on various network types; the cognitive aspect of relationships between friends was connected to depression, while the connection was not found for neighbours. Further, the oldest age group in the sample (80 years of age) is pointed out as a population especially vulnerable for depression that should not be overlooked in mental health promotion and depression prevention.