Social Capital and Health in the Oldest Old

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Fredrica Nyqvist
Janna Gustavsson
Yngve Gustafsson


The aim of this study was to measure social capital in the oldest old, and its association with different dimensions of health. The Umeå 85+ study is a cross-sectional study of 253 people, aged 85 years, 90 years and 95 years or older. A principal component factor analysis was performed to assess classes of information measuring the structural and the cognitive components of social capital on an individual level. In the final model, one factor consisting of attachment, social integration and social network emerged which accounted for 55 per cent of the total variance. We analysed the association between structural social capital and various dimensions of health such as depressive symptoms, functional ability and self-rated health. This study suggests that structural social capital may partially explain depressive symptoms but not functional ability or self-rated health. We conclude that social capital is a relevant resource for the oldest old, but we suggest a different approach when measuring social capital in this age group, such as conducting a longitudinal study or including retrospective questions in the study. The oldest old may have had a high level of social capital, but our study could not identify this statistically.


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