The mechanisms that associate community social capital with post-disaster mental health: a multilevel model

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Nov;75(9):1715-20. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.06.032. Epub 2012 Jul 27.


Many scholars have advocated that the time has come to provide empirical evidence of the mechanisms that associate community social capital with individual disaster mental health. For this purpose we conducted a study (n = 232) one year after a flood (2008) in Morpeth, a rural town in northern England. We selected posttraumatic stress as an indicator of disaster mental health. Our multilevel model shows that high community social capital is indirectly salutary for individual posttraumatic stress. In particular, in communities (defined as postcode areas) with high structural social capital, the results suggest that individuals confide in the social context (high cognitive social capital) to address disaster-related demands (high collective efficacy), and employ less individual psychosocial resources (i.e. coping strategies and social support). This "conservation of individual psychosocial resources" in a salutary social context decreases the association between the appraisal of the disaster and posttraumatic stress. As a result of this mechanism, individuals suffer less from posttraumatic stress in communities with high social capital. These findings provide new insights how intervention policies aimed at strengthening both objective and subjective dimensions of social capital may reduce post-disaster mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disasters*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Floods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Rural Population
  • Social Support*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult