Social capital elite, excluded participators, busy working parents and aging, participating less: Types of community participators and their mental health

Helen Berry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)


With the prevalence and costs of mental health problems increasing, safe, effective and economically viable prevention and treatment strategies are urgently needed. Community participation is protectively linked to mental health and is considered a valid mental health promotion strategy. However, little consideration has been given to socio-demographically driven patterns of participation that would differentially affect the success of such a strategy. The aims of this study were to group and describe members of a socio-economically disadvantaged rural region according to patterns of community participation, report on their levels of social cohesion and psychological distress and reflect on policy implications. Participants were 963 community members, aged 19-97, randomly selected from a socio-economically disadvantaged coastal Australian region, who voluntarily completed an anonymous postal survey. Measures included (1) frequency of fourteen types of participation, (2) thoughts and feelings about each type, and (3) five aspects of social cohesion. Two-step cluster analysis was undertaken to derive groupings of respondents based on their socio-demographic characteristics and levels of and perceptions about their participation. Psychological distress was assessed for each group. Four distinct groupings of participants were identified: social capital elite; busy working parents; aging, participating less; and excluded participators. The last of these reported particularly poor participation, cohesion and psychological distress. For mental health promotion strategies to be effective, they must be tailored to the circumstances of intended recipients. This requires a sophisticated analysis of target groups. This study has shown that members of a socio-economically disadvantaged rural region may be described according to systematically varying patterns of socio-demographic characteristics, participation, social cohesion and distress. Policy-makers might consider (1) how and whether different groups might respond to the use of increased community participation as a mental health promotion strategy and (2) barriers that might have to be overcome in different groups
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-537
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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