Social capital, trust in the health-care system and self-rated health: the role of access to health care in a population-based study

Soc Sci Med. 2007 Apr;64(7):1373-83. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.11.023. Epub 2007 Jan 2.


This paper investigates the relationship between institutional trust in the health-care system, i.e. an institutional aspect of social capital, and self-rated health, and whether the strength of this association is affected by access to health-care services. The 2004 public health survey in the Scania region of Sweden is a cross-sectional study; a total of 27,963 respondents aged 18-80 years answered a postal questionnaire, which represents 59% of the random sample. Logistic regression model was used to investigate the association between institutional trust and self-rated health. Multivariate analyses of self-rated health were performed in order to investigate the importance of possible confounders (age, country of origin, education, economic stress, generalized trust in other people, and care-seeking behaviour) on this association. A 28.7% proportion of the men and 33.2% of the women reported poor self-rated health. A total of 15.0% and 58.3% of the respondents reported "very high" and "rather high" trust in the health-care system, respectively. Almost one-third of all respondents reported low institutional trust. Respondents born outside Sweden, with low/medium education, low generalized trust and low institutional trust had significantly higher odds ratios of poor self-rated health. Multiple adjustments for age, country of origin, education, economic stress, and horizontal trust had some effect on the significant relationship between institutional trust and poor self-rated health, for both men and women, but the additional introduction of care-seeking behaviour in the model substantially reduced the odds ratios. In conclusion, low trust in the health-care system is associated with poor self-rated health. This association may be partly mediated by "not seeking health care when needed". However, this is a cross-sectional exploratory study and the causality may go in both directions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Disclosure
  • Social Support*
  • State Medicine
  • Sweden
  • Trust*