Research examining the relationship between social capital and health in Latin America has been limited. The aim of this study is to evaluate the association between social capital and tobacco use in four low-income neighborhoods in Santiago, Chile.
A multistage probability sample was used to select households in 4 of the 10 poorest neighborhoods in the district of Puente Alto, in Santiago, Chile. A cross-sectional survey of 781 participants (81.2% response rate for households) included sociodemographic variables, questions pertaining to neighborhood social capital, and questions pertaining to tobacco. Main analyses were carried out at the individual level by performing a multiple logistic regression of individual tobacco use on individual perceptions of community social capital.
The prevalence of smoking was 43.9% of the surveyed population. A five-factor structure for social capital was identified, including “perceived trust in neighbors,” “perceived trust in organizations,” “reciprocity within the neighborhood,” “neighborhood integration,” and “social participation.” An inverse relationship between trust in neighbors and tobacco smoking was statistically significantly with an adjusted odds ratio of 0.95 (95% CI: 0.91–0.99). Trust in neighbors was also significantly inversely associated with the number of cigarettes smoked.
Tobacco control remains a significant challenge in global health, requiring innovative strategies that address changing social contexts as well as the changing epidemiological profile of developing regions.