Network social capital, social participation, and physical inactivity in an urban adult population

Soc Sci Med. 2012 May;74(9):1362-7. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.01.005. Epub 2012 Feb 22.


Research on individual social capital and physical activity has tended to focus on the association among physical activity, generalized trust, and social participation. Less is known about the association between network social capital, i.e., the resources accessed through one's social connections, and physical inactivity. Using formal network measures of social capital, this study examined which specific dimension of network capital (i.e. diversity, reach and range) was associated with physical inactivity, and whether network social capital mediated the association between physical inactivity and social participation. Data came from the 2008 Montreal (Canada) Neighbourhood Networks and Healthy Aging survey, in which 2707 adults 25 years and older in 300 Montreal neighbourhoods were surveyed. Physical activity was self-reported using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ). IPAQ guidelines provided the basis for the physical inactivity cutoff. Network social capital was measured with a position generator instrument. Multilevel logistic methods were used to examine the association between physical inactivity and individual social capital dimensions, while adjusting for socio-demographic and -economic factors. Higher network diversity was associated with a decreased likelihood of physical inactivity. Consistent with previous findings, individuals who did not participate in any formal associations were more likely to be physically inactive compared to those with high levels of participation. Network diversity mediated the association between physical inactivity and participation. Generalized trust and the network components of reach and range were not shown associated with physical inactivity. Findings highlight the importance of social participation and network social capital and the added value of network measures in the study of social capital and physical inactivity. Population-based programs targeting physical inactivity among adults might consider ecological-level interventions that leverage associational involvement and interpersonal relationships to improve population-level physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Quebec
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Social Participation*
  • Social Support*
  • Trust
  • Urban Health
  • Urban Population