BACKGROUND: Depression is a major health problem worldwide, especially among women. The condition has been related to a number of factors, such as alcohol consumption, economic situation and, more recently, to social capital. However, there have been relatively few studies about the social capital-depression relationship in Eastern Europe. This paper aims to fill this gap by examining the association between different forms of social capital and self-rated depression in Moscow. Differences between men and women will also be examined, with a special focus on women.
METHODS: Data was obtained from the Moscow Health Survey, which was conducted in 2004 with 1190 Muscovites aged 18 years or above. For depression, a single-item self-reported measure was used. Social capital was operationalised through five questions about different forms of social relations. Logistic regression analysis was undertaken to estimate the association between social capital and self-rated depression, separately for men and women.
RESULTS: More women (48 %) than men (36 %) reported that they had felt depressed during the last year. An association was found between social capital and reported depression only among women. Women who were divorced or widowed or who had little contact with relatives had higher odds of reporting depression than those with more family contact. Women who regularly engaged with people from different age groups outside of their families were also more likely to report depression than those with less regular contact.
CONCLUSIONS: Social capital can be a mixed blessing for women. Different forms of social relations can lead to different health outcomes, both positive and negative. Although the family is important for women's mental health in Moscow, extra-familial relations across age groups can be mentally distressing. This suggests that even though social capital can be a valuable resource for mental health, some of its forms can be mentally deleterious to maintain, especially for women. More research is needed on both sides to social capital. A special focus should be placed on bridging social relations among women in order to better understand the complex association between social capital and depression in Russia and elsewhere.