Social Participation and Health: A Comparison of Internal Migrants and Non-Migrants in Malawi

Tyler W. Myroniuk, University of Maryland
Philip A. Anglewicz, Tulane University

The importance of social capital for individual health has long been established, but research in this area often suffers from critical limitations. For one, an important conceptualization of social capital—social participation—and its relationship with health has seldom been examined. Research on social capital and health typically uses cross-sectional data, which makes it challenging to identify whether participation affects health or healthier individuals are more likely to participate. We use two waves of longitudinal data (2008-2010) from rural Malawi to address these limitations. These data contain several measures of social participation, as well as SF-12 measures of physical and mental health. After controlling for possible selection bias, our results differ by gender and between mental and physical health. We find that social participation improves physical health, but greater social participation is associated with worse mental health among rural Malawian women and men.

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Presented in Session 17: Social Disparities in Health and Mortality in Developing Countries