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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Social capital in relation to depression, musculoskeletal pain, and psychosomatic symptoms: a cross-sectional study of a large population-based cohort of Swedish adolescents

Cecilia Åslund1*, Bengt Starrin23 and Kent W Nilsson1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Clinical Research, Uppsala University, Central Hospital of Västerås, S-72189 Västerås, Sweden

2 Department of Social Studies, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden

3 Faculty of Health and Social Studies, Lillehammer College, Lillehammer, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:715  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-715

Published: 20 November 2010



Social capital has lately received much attention in health research. The present study investigated whether two measures of subjective social capital were related to psychosomatic symptoms, musculoskeletal pain, and depression in a large population of Swedish adolescents.


A total of 7757 13-18 year old students anonymously completed the Survey of Adolescent Life in Vestmanland 2008 which included questions on sociodemographic background, neighbourhood social capital, general social trust, and ill health.


Low neighbourhood social capital and low general social trust were associated with higher rates of psychosomatic symptoms, musculoskeletal pain, and depression. Individuals with low general social trust had more than three times increased odds of being depressed, three times increased odds of having many psychosomatic symptoms, and double the odds of having many symptoms of musculoskeletal pain.


The findings make an important contribution to the social capital - health debate by demonstrating relations between social capital factors and self-reported ill health in a young population.