Comparing levels of social capital in three northern post-industrial UK cities

D Walsh, G McCartney, S McCullough, M van der Pol, D Buchanan, R Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: A high level of 'excess' mortality (i.e. that seemingly not explained by deprivation) has been shown for Scotland compared to England & Wales and, in particular, for its largest city, Glasgow, compared to the similarly deprived postindustrial English cities of Liverpool and Manchester. The excess has been observed across all social classes, but, for premature mortality, has been shown to be highest in comparison of those of lowest socio-economic status (SES). Many theories have been proposed to explain this phenomenon. One such suggestion relates to potential differences in social capital between the cities, given the previously evidenced links between social capital and mortality. The aim of this study was to ascertain whether any aspects of social capital differed between the cities and whether, therefore, this might be a plausible explanation for some of the excess mortality observed in Glasgow.

STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

METHODS: A representative survey of Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester was undertaken in 2011. Social capital was measured using an expanded version of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) core 'Social Capital Harmonised Question Set'. Differences between the cities in five sets of social capital topics (views about the local area, civic participation, social networks and support, social participation, and reciprocity and trust) were explored by means of a series of multivariate regression models, while controlling for differences in the characteristics (age, gender, SES, ethnicity etc.) of the samples.

RESULTS: Some, but not all, aspects of social capital were lower among the Glasgow sample compared to those in Liverpool and Manchester. A number of these differences were greatest among those of higher, rather than lower, SES. Levels of social participation, trust and (some measures of) reciprocity were lower in Glasgow, particularly in comparison with Liverpool. However, assessment of any potential impact of these differences is limited by the cross-sectional nature of the data.

CONCLUSIONS: The analyses suggest it is at least possible that differences in some aspects of social capital could play some part in explaining Glasgow's excess mortality, especially among particular sections of its population (e.g. those of higher SES). However, in the absence of more detailed longitudinal data, this remains speculative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-638
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Health
Issue number6
Early online date29 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cities
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Glasgow
  • Humans
  • Postindustrial
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Excess Mortality
  • Social Capital
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester
  • Glasgow effect


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