In- and out-Group Trust and Self-Rated Health: A Multi-Country Analysis

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:00
Oral Presentation
Pildoo SUNG, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Health research has used varied social capital indicators such as trust, interpersonal networks, and civic engagement. Of those, empirical studies reported a health-promoting or protective effect of individual's generalized trust. Generalized trust refers to trust toward “most people.” Researchers have argued that people with high level of generalized trust put trust in not only their in-group members such as friends or neighbors but also out-group persons of unfamiliar or dissimilar characteristics. In turn, generalized trusters may enjoy better physical and mental health due in part to extended social networks and reduced anxiety and fear against others’ behaviors. Nevertheless, comparative researchers recently showed that the meaning of “most people” can be interpreted differently across nations and regions. Therefore it is imperative to examine the associations between in- and out-group trust and health separately rather than mixing the two types of trust under the name of generalized trust.

Using data from 56 countries in the sixth wave of the World Value Survey, I found the relative advantage of in-group trust than out-group trust in its association with self-rated health. In contrast, out-group trusters reported better health only in Western societies. These findings suggest that (a) using distinct measures of in- and out-group trust show more straightforward and detailed trust-health relationship in cross-national studies, and (b) in-group trust may generate health advantages such as receiving timely support from confidants and having sense of attachment to primary groups against distress. On the other hand, (c) out-group trust is beneficial to health exclusively in the West where relatively a high level of civic awareness and associational activities enables out-group trusters to get necessary health assistance from people beyond their in-group boundaries.