Pregnant women with more social capital have better mental health (Japan)

social capital

A data analysis project in Japan with a sample size of 79,210 has found a correlation between social capital reported by women and their mental health during pregnancy. The more social capital they reported, the better their mental health.

The study found this correlation for two categories of social capital, individual and neighbourhood, particularly for individual capital. These were measured through questions to the women:

Individual social capital

  • Is there someone available to you who shows you love and affection?
  • Is there someone whom you can count on for emotional support (discuss problems or help you make a difficult decision)?
  • How often do you have a desired level of contact with someone whom you feel close to, trust and can confide in?
  • Number of friends or neighbours with whom you can casually share your concerns.

Neighbourhood social capital

  • Neighbours trust each other
  • Neighbours help each other

The data were drawn from and Government funded nationwide birth cohort study, the Japan Environment and Children’s Study. The researchers accessed questionnaire responses and medical records. The original dataset included fathers (about half as many as mothers), but this analysis focused only on mothers.

No correlation was found between measures of social capital and physical health during pregnancy.

Japan has seen a move towards nuclear families, rural depopulation and high urban population densities, which are thought to have reduced community ties and social capital.


Morozumi R et al (2020), Impact of individual and neighborhood social capital on the physical and mental health of pregnant women: The Japan Environment and Children’s Study (JECS), BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 20

Header photo: Alick Sung. Creative Commons.