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Social Capital as a Mediator through the Effect of Education on Depression and Obesity among the Elderly in China

Sciprofile linkYu Xin, Sciprofile linkXiaohui Ren
Abstract: Objectives: Global aging is an increasingly serious problem. The health problems faced by the elderly, such as depression and obesity, require serious consideration. Education, depression and obesity are inextricably linked; for the elderly, education is constant, and the factors which can mediate the relationship between education, depression and obesity are still being discussed by scholars. The mediating effect of social capital is rarely studied. The objective of this study was to assess the mediating role of cognitive social capital and structural social capital, as well as the effect of education on depression and obesity among the elderly using China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) data. Methods: In total, 4919 respondents were included in the final analysis. Education was measured by years of schooling. Trust and participation were used as measures of cognitive social capital and structural social capital. Depression symptoms and BMI were used as outcomes. Structural equation models were developed to examine the direct and indirect effect of social capital and education on health outcomes. Results: Education was negatively correlated with depression symptom (r = −0.15, p < 0.001), while education was positively correlated with BMI (r = 0.08, p < 0.001). Older adults with a higher education level have higher cognitive social capital (r = 0.11, p < 0.001) and structural social capital (r = 0.20, p < 0.001). Social capital plays a mediatory role. Older adults with higher social capital have a lower risk of depression (cognitive: r = −0.23, p < 0.001; structural: r = −0.03, p < 0.01) but a higher risk of obesity (cognitive: r = 0.06, p < 0.01; structural: r = 0.03, p < 0.01). For depression, the mediating function of cognitive social capital (a1b1= −0.025) is stronger than that of structural social capital (a2b2 = −0.006). While, for obesity, the effects of both cognitive and structural social capital are the same (a1c1 = a2c2 = 0.005). Conclusions: Social capital as a mediator through the effect of education on depression and obesity among the elderly in China. Meanwhile, using the positive effects of social capital to avoid negative effects should also be seriously considered.
Keywords: depression / Older adults / obesity / education / social capital / Mediator

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