The mediating role of social capital in the relationship between socioeconomic status and adolescent wellbeing: evidence from Ghana

Evelyn Aboagye ADDAE

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Social capital is generally portrayed to be protective of adolescents’ health and wellbeing against the effects of socioeconomic inequalities. However, few empirical evidence exist on this protective role of social capital regarding adolescents’ wellbeing in the low-and middle-income country (LMIC) context. This study examines the potential for social capital to be a protective health resource by investigating whether social capital can mediate the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and wellbeing of Ghanaian adolescents. It also examines how SES and social capital relate to different dimensions of adolescents’ wellbeing in different social contexts.

The study employed a cross-sectional survey involving a randomly selected 2068 adolescents (13-18 years) from 15 schools (8 Senior and 7 Junior High Schools) in Ghana. Relationships were assessed using multivariate regression models.

Three measures of familial social capital (family sense of belonging, family autonomy support, and family control) were found to be important protective factors of both adolescents’ life satisfaction and happiness against the effects of socioeconomic status. One measure of school social capital (school sense of belonging) was found to augment adolescents’ wellbeing but played no mediating role in the SES-wellbeing relationship. A proportion of about 69 and 42% of the total effect of SES on happiness and life satisfaction were mediated by social capital respectively. Moreover, there were variations in how SES and social capital related to the different dimensions of adolescents’ wellbeing.

Social capital is a significant mechanism through which SES impacts the wellbeing of adolescents. Social capital is a potential protective health resource that can be utilised by public health policy to promote adolescents’ wellbeing irrespective of socioeconomic inequalities. Moreover, the role of the family (home) in promoting adolescents’ wellbeing is superior to that of school which prompts targeted policy interventions. For a holistic assessment of adolescents’ subjective wellbeing, both life evaluations (life satisfaction) and positive emotions (happiness) should be assessed concomitantly.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Public Health
Early online date7 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

I acknowledge the respondents who made the data availability possible. I also thank the project supervisors; Prof KUEHNER Stefan and Prof DAVID Roman of Lingnan University-Hong Kong for their immense contribution to the completion of this work. I moreover thank all those who contributed one way or the other to the study and getting this article published.

This work was sponsored by Lingnan University, Hong Kong [RPG 1166681]. The sponsor played no role in the design, data collection, analysis, interpretation of data, and preparation of the article.

Ethics approval and consent to participate
Ethical approval was provided by the Committee on Human Research Publication and Ethics (CHRPE), School of Medical Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi, Ghana (Ref: CHRPE/AP/542/18). Ethical approval was also granted by the Research Ethics Sub-Committee of Lingnan University, Hong Kong. Consent from the regional and district education directors and parents of the selected participants were also sought. Study participants were fully briefed on the research purpose, anonymity, and confidentiality and provided written consent to sign before the voluntarily survey.


  • Autonomy and control
  • Ghana
  • Happiness
  • Life satisfaction
  • Sense of belonging
  • Social capital
  • Social context
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Wellbeing


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