Whereas the majority of previous research on social capital and health has been on residential neighborhoods and communities, the evidence remains sparse on workplace social capital. To address this gap in the literature, we examined the association between workplace social capital and health status among Chinese employees in a large, multi-level, cross-sectional study.
By employing a two-stage stratified random sampling procedure, 2,796 employees were identified from 35 workplaces in Shanghai during March to November 2012. Workplace social capital was assessed using a validated and psychometrically tested eight-item measure, and the Chinese language version of the WHO-Five Well-Being Index (WHO-5) was used to assess mental health. Control variables included sex, age, marital status, education level, occupation status, smoking status, physical activity, and job stress. Multilevel logistic regression analysis was conducted to explore whether individual- and workplace-level social capital was associated with mental health status.
In total, 34.9% of workers reported poor mental health (WHO-5<13). After controlling for individual-level socio-demographic and lifestyle variables, compared to workers with the highest quartile of personal social capital, workers with the third, second, and lowest quartiles exhibited 1.39 to 3.54 times greater odds of poor mental health, 1.39 (95% CI: 1.10–1.75), 1.85 (95% CI: 1.38–2.46) and 3.54 (95% CI: 2.73–4.59), respectively. Corresponding odds ratios for workplace-level social capital were 0.95 (95% CI: 0.61–1.49), 1.14 (95% CI: 0.72–1.81) and 1.63 (95% CI: 1.05–2.53) for the third, second, and lowest quartiles, respectively.
Higher workplace social capital is associated with lower odds of poor mental health among Chinese employees. Promoting social capital at the workplace may contribute to enhancing employees’ mental health in China.