out for each other and 87 per cent enjoy living in their local area
according to a special report from the Office for National Statistics
prepared for the Health Development Agency (HDA) and published today.
It is one of the first national surveys designed to measure different
aspects of social capital and was commissioned by the HDA to improve
understanding of social capital and its links to health. The
questions were asked as part of the General Household Survey 2000/01.
Five aspects of social capital were investigated in the survey:
- civic engagement
- social networks
- social support
- perception of the local area
More than half of people felt well informed about local affairs (59
per cent) and that communities could influence decisions (56 per
cent), but only a minority felt they personally could influence
decisions in the area (26 per cent), were involved in a local
organisation (21 per cent) or had taken action to solve a local
problem (27 per cent).
Eighteen per cent of respondents 'felt civically engaged'; that is
they felt well informed, believed they could influence decisions and
agreed or strongly agreed that local people could affect decisions
relating to the neighbourhood.
Around three-quarters of people believed that neighbours in their
area looked out for each other (73 per cent), and similar proportions
had done a favour for a neighbour (74 per cent) or had received a
favour from a neighbour (72 per cent) during the last six months.
Just over half (53 per cent) answered yes to all three of these
Just under half of respondents (46 per cent) said they knew most or
many people in the neighbourhood, while more than half (58 per cent)
felt they could trust most or many of the people in their
neighbourhood. This suggests that some people have a 'generalised
trust' of others, that is they are trusting of people even if they do
not know them personally.
People were more likely to have a number of close friends living
nearby than relatives. Thirty per cent had at least five close
friends living nearby compared with 16 per cent with at least five
close relatives nearby and 27 per cent had no close friends living in
their local area, whereas 44 per cent had no relatives they felt
close to living nearby.
Two-thirds (66 per cent) had a 'satisfactory friendship network',
that is they saw or spoke to friends at least once a week and had at
least one close friend who lived nearby. Just over half (52 per cent)
had a 'satisfactory relatives network', (based on similar criteria
for relatives). Twenty per cent of people had neither.
More than half of respondents had at least five people they could
turn to in a serious personal crisis (58 per cent), 18 per cent had
less than three people they could turn to. One in fifty (2 per cent)
said they had nobody to turn to. Of those who had support, the
majority reported that they had at least one person they could turn
to living nearby (90 per cent).
Perceptions of the local area
Eighty-seven per cent of people enjoyed living in their local area.
Many also had a positive view of the local facilities; 77 per cent
felt that rubbish collection was good or very good, 71 per cent rated
local health services as good or very good and 60 per cent said that
the area had good local transport.
The speed or volume of road traffic and parking in residential
streets were the items most likely to be seen as a problem (60 per
cent and 46 per cent respectively). Teenagers hanging around on the
streets and alcohol and drug use were both seen as problems by 30 per
cent of respondents. Level of noise, at 15 per cent, was least likely
to be mentioned as a problem.
The majority of people felt either very safe (60 per cent) or fairly
safe (33 per cent) walking alone during the day-time. Around a
quarter (26 per cent) felt a unsafe walking alone after dark and one
in five (20 per cent) said they never went out alone after dark.
Variations by socio-demographic factors
Age was closely associated with the majority of the social capital
indicators. Younger people tended to be less likely than older people
to exhibit the positive indicators of social capital and more likely
to exhibit the negative indicators.
- People aged 16 to 29 were the least likely to feel civically
engaged, 12 per cent compared with between 18 per cent and 22 per
cent of other age groups.
- Doing a favour for a neighbour was lowest for the youngest age
group; 57 per cent compared with around four fifths of those aged 30
Differences across the regions occurred in each of the relationships
found, but the only consistent finding was that people living in
London tended to be at the lower end of the range for the positive
indicators. For example:
- People living in London were the least neighbourly, being at the
lower end of the range across the regions for each indicator of
- The North East, North West and South West were found to be the
most neighbourly areas, each being at the upper end of the range for
all the indicators of neighbourliness.
- People in the North East were the most likely to speak to their
neighbours daily (40 per cent), people in the North West and South
West were the most likely to trust their neighbours (60 per cent and
65 per cent respectively) and those in the South West were most
likely to have received a favour from a neighbour (79 per cent); for
the whole of England these were 27 per cent, 56 per cent and 72 per
People who had lived in their area for less than five years were
twice as likely to have no close friends or relatives living nearby
compared with those who had lived in the area for twenty or more
years (63 per cent compared with 30 per cent for relatives and 41 per
cent compared with 20 per cent for friends).
Twenty-seven per cent of people living in social sector housing had
fewer than three people they could turn to in a personal crisis
compared with 16 per cent of those in owner-occupied accommodation.
People in social sector housing were less likely than those with
other forms of tenure to enjoy living in their local area (77 per
cent compared with 84 per cent of people in private rented
accommodation and 89 per cent of people in owner occupied
accommodation), and the most likely to perceive the local facilities
to be poor and to report high levels of local problems.
People in households with dependent children were more likely to give
and receive favours from neighbours than those in households without
People in lone parent or single person households had lower levels of
social support than those living in households containing a couple.
Around a quarter of those in lone parent households and those living
alone had fewer than three people they could turn to in a personal
crisis compared with between 15 per cent and 17 per cent of those in
Lone-parents with dependent children were less likely to enjoy living
in their area than people in other types of households and were more
likely to report high levels of local problems.
Forty-seven per cent of lone-parents with dependent children
perceived their area to have a high level of local problems compared
with 34 per cent of people in households comprising a couple with
dependent children and 30 per cent of people who lived alone.
Women were more likely than men to speak on the phone frequently
(particularly to relatives) and to see relatives, but men were more
likely to report a large number of close friends living nearby.
- Forty-four per cent of women spoke on the phone to relatives at
least five times a week compared with 25 per cent of men.
- A third of men (34 per cent) reported having at least five close
friends living nearby compared with around one in five women (27 per
A third (32 per cent) of women said they felt unsafe walking in their
local area after dark compared with less than one in five men (18 per
cent) and 31 per cent of women said they never went out alone after
dark compared with 8 per cent of men.
People's perceptions of their neighbourhood and community
involvement - TSO£35.
ISBN 0 11 6215518
Available free on the National Statistics website .
1. The Health Development Agency www.HDA-online.org.uk identifies
what works to improve people's health and reduce health inequalities.
It gathers evidence and produces advice for professionals, working
alongside them to get that evidence into practice.
2. While definitions vary widely, the main indicators of social
capital tend to include: social relationships and social support;
formal and informal social networks; group memberships; community and
civic engagement; norms and values; reciprocal activities (for
example, child care arrangements); and levels of trust in others.
3. One aim of the GHS module was to develop a new set of national
indicators relating to the social environment in which people live.
The module was developed to encourage the collection of a standard
set of information on social capital which would allow comparisons to
be made between different local studies and corresponding national
4. The General Household Survey (GHS) is a multi-purpose continuous
survey carried out by the Social Survey Division of the Office for
National Statistics (ONS) which collects information on a range of
topics from people living in private households in Great Britain. The
survey started in 1971 and has been carried out continuously since
then, except for breaks in 1997/98 (when the survey was reviewed) and
1999/2000 when the survey was re-developed.
5. The social capital module was asked of one randomly selected
individual aged 16 or over in each household. Of the 8221 households
interviewed for the GHS, social capital modules were achieved with
6. The HDA social capital module was included in the General
Household Survey because it facilitated analysis of the data with
respect to a wide range of socio-demographic characteristics and
health measures. Topics of particular interest for this investigation
of social capital were: demographic information; household and family
information; housing tenure; employment; and education.