Fredrica Nyqvist

National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Mental Health Promotion Unit, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. 

Helsinki, Finland

Fredrica Nyqvist

Project

Social Capital, Loneliness and Mental Well-Being in an Ageing Population: Social Inequalities

Summary

The diversity of ageing across Europe deserves greater recognition and exploration, as does the situation of different subgroups within a population. Although social capital is regarded as one important mental health resource, little research has been conducted to establish the association and mechanisms between social capital and positive mental health, particularly among older adults.

Social capital may influence the health of individuals through psychosocial processes. It may for example, act as a buffer against threat to individual's well-being particularly those arising from frailty, death or partner, siblings and good friends, which could lead to experienced loneliness and isolation. Even though socially isolated people in the community, neighbourhood or friends are not necessarily lonely, it may be that loneliness -defined as a subjective negative feeling of lack or loss of meaningful relationships - appears as an intervening or as an additional explanatory factor operating independently as mental well-being determinant. There is thus a need to consider the influence of socio-environmental factors such as social capital and individual psycho-social factors including loneliness when analysing mental-well-being in an ageing population.

There is a lack uniformity across studies in the choice of indicators to measure social capital. Social capital is a comprehensive concept and we need studies such as COURAGE and GERDA that are able to distinguish different components of social capital in relation to mental well-being, in order to promote mental health and to diminish inequalities regarding social and health resources.

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