Open Access Open Badges Research article

Multi-level, cross-sectional study of workplace social capital and smoking among Japanese employees

Etsuji Suzuki1*, Takeo Fujiwara2, Soshi Takao1, S V Subramanian3, Eiji Yamamoto4 and Ichiro Kawachi3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2-5-1 Shikata-cho, Kita-ku, Okayama 700-8558, Japan

2 Section of Behavioral Science, Department of Health Promotion, National Institute of Public Health, 2-3-6 Minami, Wako-shi, Saitama 351-0197, Japan

3 Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

4 Department of Information Science, Faculty of Informatics, Okayama University of Science, 1-1 Ridai-cho, Kita-ku, Okayama 700-0005, Japan

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:489  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-489

Published: 17 August 2010



Social capital is hypothesized to be relevant to health promotion, and the association between community social capital and cigarette smoking has been examined. Individual-level social capital has been found to be associated with smoking cessation, but evidence remains sparse on the contextual effect of social capital and smoking. Further, evidence remains sparse on the association between smoking and social capital in the workplace, where people are spending an increasing portion of their daily lives. We examined the association between workplace social capital and smoking status among Japanese private sector employees.


We employed a two-stage stratified random sampling procedure. Of the total of 1,800 subjects in 60 companies, 1,171 (men/women; 834/337) employees (65.1%) were identified from 46 companies in Okayama in 2007. Workplace social capital was assessed in two dimensions; trust and reciprocity. Company-level social capital was based on inquiring about employee perceptions of trust and reciprocity among co-workers, and then aggregating their responses in order to calculate the proportion of workers reporting mistrust and lack of reciprocity. Multilevel logistic regression analysis was conducted using Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods to explore whether individual- and company-level social capital was associated with smoking. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% credible intervals (CIs) for current smoking were obtained.


Overall, 33.3% of the subjects smoked currently. There was no relationship between individual-level mistrust of others and smoking status. By contrast, one-standard deviation change in company-level mistrust was associated with higher odds of smoking (OR: 1.25, 95% CI: 1.06-1.46) even after controlling for individual-level mistrust, sex, age, occupation, educational attainment, alcohol use, physical activity, body mass index, and chronic diseases. No clear associations were found between lack of reciprocity and smoking both at the individual- and company-level.


Company-level mistrust is associated with higher likelihood of smoking among Japanese employees, while individual perceptions of mistrust were not associated. The link between lack of reciprocity and smoking was not supported either at the individual- or company-level. Further studies are warranted to examine the possible link between company-level trust and smoking cessation in the Japanese workplace.