Open Access Research article

Does social capital travel? Influences on the life satisfaction of young people living in England and Spain

Antony R Morgan1*, Francisco Rivera2, Carmen Moreno3 and Bo JA Haglund1

Author Affiliations

1 Public Health Sciences Department, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Department of Clinical, Experimental and Social Psychology, University of Huelva, Huelva, Spain

3 Department of Developmental and Education Psychology, University of Seville, Seville, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:138  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-138

Published: 21 February 2012



This study used a social capital framework to examine the relationship between a set of potential protective ('health assets') factors and the wellbeing of 15 year adolescents living in Spain and England. The overall purpose of the study was to compare the consistency of these relationships between countries and to investigate their respective relative importance.


Data were drawn from the 2002, English and Spanish components of the WHO Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) survey A total of 3,591 respondents (1884, Spain; 1707, England) aged 15, drawn from random samples of students in 215 and 80 schools respectively were included in the study. A series of univariate, bivariate and multivariate (general linear modelling and decision tree) analyses were used to establish the relationships.


Results showed that the wellbeing of Spanish and English adolescents is similar and good. Three measures of social capital and 2 measures of social support were found to be important factors in the general linear model. Namely, family autonomy and control; family and school sense of belonging; and social support at home and school. However, there were differences in how the sub components of social capital manifest themselves in each country--feelings of autonomy of control, were more important in England and social support factors in Spain.


There is some evidence to suggest that social capital (and its related concept of social support) do travel and are applicable to young people living in Spain and England. Given the different constellation of assets found in each country, it is not possible to define exactly the precise formula for applying social capital across cultures. This should more appropriately be defined at the programme planning stage.