Social capital is the resource of social networks, community cohesion, social participation, trust and empowerment, that collectively provide an important part of personal and social wellbeing now and in the future. The social capital index monitors aggregate changes in levels of social capital since 2013.


This data is from the Scottish Household Survey (SHS), a large, continuous survey conducted throughout Scotland. The SHS is a National Statistics product. Scottish Government are the owners of the data.

Data for this indicator is published in the Scottish Household Survey Annual Report, which can be found here. An interactive data explorer for the SHS can be found here.

A Round Table set up to inform and oversee the development and improvement of the National Performance Framework identified gaps in current national data on the strength of our communities and relationships.

The Scottish Government developed an index based on four social capital themes: 1) social networks, 2) community cohesion, 3) social participation, and 4) community empowerment. Under these headings, data from 18 survey questions from the SHS is tracked over time to show aggregate change in the four themes, and for an overall measure of change in social capital nationally since 2013.

To account for the different magnitude of scores, each of the questions has been indexed and set to the value 100 for the base year 2013, and the percentage changes in subsequent years, relative to the base year.

The four themes and associated survey questions are:

1) Social Networks

Could rely on neighbour to help (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’) (RB4DN)

Could count on neighbour to keep eye on home (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’)  (RB4DN)

Could turn to someone in neighbourhood for advice (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’)  (RB4DN)

Would help neighbour (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’)  (RB4DN)

Meets socially with friends, relatives, neighbours, work colleagues (‘every day or most days’, ‘a few times a week’, ‘once a week’) (SOCIAL1)

Felt lonely in the last week (all or almost all of the time’, ‘some of the time’, ‘most of the time’ (SOCIAL2)

2) Community Cohesion (8 variables)

Neighbourhood rating (‘very good’ + ‘fairly good’) (RB1)

Neighbourhood belonging (‘very strongly’ + ‘fairly strongly) (COMMBEL)

Feelings of safety walking home (‘very safe’ + ‘fairly safe’) (RA4AC)

Neighbourhood trust (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’)  (SOCIAL3)

Neighbourhood kindness (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’)  (SOCIAL3)

Has places to meet up and socialise in their neighbourhood (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’) (SOCIAL3)

Welcoming places and opportunities to meet new people (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’) (SOCIAL3)

A neighbourhood where people get on well together (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’) (SOCIAL3)

3) Community Empowerment (2 variables)

I can influence decisions (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’)  (RF10)

People take action to improve the area (‘Strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’) (SOCIAL3)

4) Social Participation (1 variable (combined from 2))

In the last 12 months, has given up time to help any groups, clubs or organisations in an unpaid capacity (‘Yes’) (RF11A2018)

In the last 12 months, has given unpaid help to other people or to improve your local environment, that is apart from any help given through a group, club or organisations (not help given to relatives) (‘Yes’) (VOLIV1)*

The indexed measures of variables within each theme are averages to provide an index score for each theme. The four scores for each theme are averaged to provide an overall indicator. This means each theme has equal weight in the calculation of the overall score. 

This approach uses variables that are already existing and some that were collected for the first time in 2018. Adding data from new variable with a base year value of 100 would artificially drag the overall average towards 100, which would be incorrect. New data are therefore introduced at the current average, so they will contribute to show their proportional effect on the average in subsequent years. If variables are added or removed to the index in future, the remaining questions will be re-based from that point onwards in a similar way.

NB. i) The index uses a measure of safety(Feelings of safety walking home (‘very safe’ + ‘fairly safe’) (RA4AC)) that was not included in the 2018 survey, and the index for 2018 is therefore based on the average of the 2017 & 2019 data points. This approach will be used in the future for other questions that are asked biennially. ii) The past time series of RA4AC, 2013-2016 was also slightly revised, as described in the main SHS report.


Criteria for change 

Due to the added complexity of using a composite index, changes are tested for statistical significance using a technique called bootstrapping. Bootstrapping is a computer-intensive method which runs thousands of iterations to estimate properties of the underlying data.

If the change in the index is found to be statistically significant, the indicator will be either performance improving or performance worsening – otherwise, the indicator will be performance maintaining.

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