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Press release 27.9.2006

The more social capital, the better perceived health

The more social capital, or participation, trust and social support, people have, the better they perceive their health. Those who have taken part in social activities consider their health better than non-participants do. Over 70 per cent of those Finns that take much part in social activities or have great trust in people perceived their health as good. The data appear from Statistics Finland's publication Social Capital in Finland, where the articles for the first time bring together statistical information concerning social capital.

The clear correlation of social capital with perceived health stays even if the effects of other health-related factors, such as age, gender and long-term illness are controlled for.

Correlation of health perceived as good or fairly good with social capital
among population aged 30 or over in 2000, %

1) The effects of age, gender, long-term illness and two other social capital dimensions have been controlled for.
Source: Health 2000 data, National Public Health Institute.

More than one half of Finns take part in collective activities

According to the Leisure Survey made in 2002, 52 per cent of Finns participate in the activity of some association, society, circle or group. Young people take the most actively part in associations. Involvement in a sports or exercise club is the most popular. Involvement in professional associations and political parties or political adult organisations has decreased significantly in 20 years, while the popularity of sports clubs has grown. Young adults, in particular, take more part in the activity of sports clubs than before.

Involvement in associations at least once a year in 1981, 1991 and 2002, %

Around 10 per cent of Finns are active participants in associations, that is, involved in the activity of three or more associations during the year. Similarly, around 10 per cent of Finns are active cultural participants, that is, they attend cultural events at least six times a year.

Active participation in associations and cultural events is connected to trust. People involved in associations and cultural activities have greater trust in other people and social institutions than the population on average. They are also more active in informal civic activities, such as writing letters to the editor or participating in demonstrations.

Social capital has an effect on well-being of workplace communities

In workplace communities social capital - support and encouragement, open communication and trust - are connected to both well-being at work and economic efficiency. Social capital improves the organisation of work, increases the proportion of those who are very pleased with their work and reduces fatigue in the workplace. The financial situation of the workplace is also felt to be more often stable and secure in workplaces with much social capital.

Open communication at work is clearly correlated with the organisation of work. According to the 2003 Quality of Work Life Survey, over 80 per cent of those who say that there is open communication in their workplace take the view that work is well organised. Correspondingly, less than one half of those who feel that communication is not open were satisfied with work organisation.

Supervisory and management work has more effect on well-being at work than encouragement and support between employees. Employees who rate their superior very highly feel more often than others that work is well organised and they are also more often very satisfied with their work.

Statistics on social capital produced for the first time in Finland

The measurement of social capital for statistical purposes has attracted growing interest in national statistical agencies around the world. Reviews have already been published in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. The collection of articles published by Statistics Finland, Social Capital in Finland, is the first statistical review on the topic in Finland. The review investigates the possibilities of producing statistics on social capital by using existing statistical materials, and at the same time joins the international discussion on the matter.

The articles in the publication examine the key features of social capital, such as trust, participation, voluntary work, social interaction and reciprocity. Some special themes are also considered in the publication: whether the use of communication media adds to social capital and whether a correlation can be seen between perceived health and social capital. The articles also talk about social capital in workplace communities, enterprises' network relations and collective labour agreements. The sources used have been register data and those based on population and enterprise inquiries.

Source: Social Capital in Finland - Statistical Review. Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Laura Iisakka +358 9 1734 3596

Director in charge: Mr Jussi Simpura

Links: The publication is available free of charge on the Internet as a pdf version
Also see Social Capital thematic pages (