Social capital and health among the aged: comparisons between the United States and Germany

Health Place. 2004 Dec;10(4):383-91. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2004.08.008.


Through a cross-national investigation of the United States and Germany, this study examines how individual level social capital relates to the health of the elderly. Data from two national telephone surveys conducted in Germany (N=682) and the United States (N=608) with probability samples of non-institutionalized persons aged 60 and older was used. Indicators of social capital including both norms (reciprocity and civic trust) and behaviors (participation) were tested with three self-reported health indicators-overall health, depression (CES-D) and functional limitations. Housing variables and social support were controlled for in the study. Lack of reciprocity was associated with poorer self-rated health in both countries. Civic mistrust was associated with poorer self-rated health in both countries as well as with depression and functional limitations in America. Lack of participation was, in Germany, associated with poorer self-rated health and depression. The cross-national results indicate that individual-level analysis of social capital along with marco-level determinants are important for understanding the health of the elderly.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Depression
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Germany
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Logistic Models
  • Social Isolation / psychology
  • Social Support*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Trust
  • United States