Background: Social conditions, social relationships and neighbourhood environment, the components of social capital, are important determinants of health. The objective of this study was to investigate the association of neighbourhood and individual social capital with consistent self-rated health in women between the first trimester of pregnancy and six months postpartum.
Methods: A multilevel cohort study in 34 neighbourhoods was performed on 685 Brazilian women recruited at antenatal units in two cities in the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Self-rated health (SRH) was assessed in the 1st trimester of pregnancy (baseline) and six months after childbirth (follow-up). The participants were divided into two groups: 1. Good SRH--good SRH at baseline and follow-up, and, 2. Poor SRH--poor SRH at baseline and follow-up. Exploratory variables collected at baseline included neighbourhood social capital (neighbourhood-level variable), individual social capital (social support and social networks), demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, health-related behaviours and self-reported diseases. A hierarchical binomial multilevel analysis was performed to test the association between neighbourhood and individual social capital and SRH, adjusted for covariates.
Results: The Good SRH group reported higher scores of social support and social networks than the Poor SRH group. Although low neighbourhood social capital was associated with poor SRH in crude analysis, the association was not significant when individual socio-demographic variables were included in the model. In the final model, women reporting poor SRH both at baseline and follow-up had lower levels of social support (positive social interaction) [OR 0.82 (95% CI: 0.73-0.90)] and a lower likelihood of friendship social networks [OR 0.61 (95% CI: 0.37-0.99)] than the Good SRH group. The characteristics that remained associated with poor SRH were low level of schooling, Black and Brown ethnicity, more children, urinary infection and water plumbing outside the house.
Conclusions: Low individual social capital during pregnancy, considered here as social support and social network, was independently associated with poor SRH in women whereas neighbourhood social capital did not affect women's SRH during pregnancy and the months thereafter. From pregnancy and up to six months postpartum, the effect of individual social capital explained better the consistency of SRH over time than neighbourhood social capital.