Wellbeing and social network characteristics in rural communities: findings from a cohort in social housing in Cornwall, United Kingdom

Emily Long*, Sebastian Stevens, Raluca Topciu, Andrew James Williams, Timothy Taylor, Karyn Morrissey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Background: The mental wellbeing of those living in resource poor and rural localities is a public health priority. Despite evidence of a link between social networks and mental wellbeing, little is known about this relationship in the context of rural and resource poor environments. The current study uses novel social network methodology to investigate the extent to which social network size and composition is related to mental wellbeing in a social housing community in rural England. Methods: Data come from 88 individuals living in social housing in Cornwall. These participants are part of a larger study of 329 social housing households surveyed in 2017 and 2018. Mental wellbeing was measured by the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS). A series of multivariable linear regression models were used to test associations between social network characteristics and mental wellbeing. Results: Social network size was significantly associated with the SWEMWBS (b = 0.39, p < 0.01), such that individuals with larger networks reported better mental wellbeing, but after controlling for community social cohesion, this effect dissipated. Neither gender composition or talking with network members about health and wellbeing were significantly associated with the SWEMWBS. Conclusions: Findings suggest that both the quantity of social connections and perceptions of community cohesion are moderately associated with mental wellbeing in rural and resource poor localities. As such, efforts to improve mental wellbeing would benefit from targeting multiple aspects of social relationships, rather than focusing solely on increasing the size of individuals’ social networks.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Community Well-Being
VolumeFirst Online
Early online date19 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 May 2022


  • Social cohesion
  • Social network
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Health
  • Social housing
  • Social capital


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