Preliminary development and validation of an Australian community participation questionnaire: types of participation and associations with distress in a coastal community.
Participating in the social and civic life of communities is protectively associated with the onset and course of physical and mental disorders, and is considered important in achieving health promotion goals. Despite its importance in health research, there is no systematically developed measure of community participation. Our aim was to undertake the preliminary development of a community participation questionnaire, including validating it against an external reference, general psychological distress. Participants were 963 randomly selected community members, aged 19-97, from coastal New South Wales, Australia, who completed an anonymous postal survey. There were 14 types of community participation, most of which were characterised by personal involvement, initiative and effort. Frequency of participation varied across types and between women and men. Based on multiple linear regression analyses, controlling for socio-demographic factors, nine types of participation were independently and significantly associated with general psychological distress. Unexpectedly, for two of these, "expressing opinions publicly" and "political protest", higher levels of participation were associated with higher levels of distress. The other seven were: contact with immediate household, extended family, friends, and neighbours; participating in organised community activities; taking an active interest in current affairs; and religious observance. We called these the "Big 7". Higher levels of participation in the Big 7 were associated with lower levels of distress. Participating in an increasing number of the Big 7 types of participation was strongly associated in linear fashion with decreasing distress.
Berry, HL; Rodgers, B; Dear, KBG
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