"Sense of community belonging" in health surveys: what social capital is it measuring?

Abstract

Canadian national health surveys regularly ask respondents to rate their sense of belonging to their local community. Health studies commonly use this question as a social capital indicator, but what social capital domains community belonging is measuring remains unclear. Analyzing Canadian General Social Survey data, we evaluate the validity of this measure with respect to network-based social capital and health. Results indicate that sense of community belonging is associated positively with several network-based social capital measures. Neighborhood network-based social capital most substantially reduced associations between sense of community belonging and health measures, but results differed by urban and rural settings. These findings indicate the need for public health surveys to include specific measures of respondents' networks.

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