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Community empowerment and mental wellbeing: longitudinal findings from a survey of people actively involved in the big local place-based initiative in England

Akhter, N and McGowan, V J and Halliday, E and Popay, J and Kasim, A and Bambra, C (2022) 'Community empowerment and mental wellbeing: longitudinal findings from a survey of people actively involved in the big local place-based initiative in England.', Journal of public health. .


Background: Community empowerment initiatives are receiving increased interest as ways of improving health and reducing health inequalities. Purpose: Longitudinally examine associations between collective control, social-cohesion and mental wellbeing amongst participants in the Big Local community empowerment initiative across 150 disadvantaged areas of England. Methods: As part of the independent Communities in Control study, we analysed nested cohort survey data on mental wellbeing (Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale—SWEMWBS) and perceptions of collective control and social-cohesion. Data were obtained in 2016, 2018 and 2020 for 217 residents involved in the 150 Big Local areas in England. Adjusted linear mixed effect models were utilized to examine changes in SWEMWBS over the three waves. Subgroup analysis by gender and educational level was conducted. Results: There was a significant 1.46 (0.14, 2.77) unit increase in mental wellbeing score at wave 2 (2018) but not in wave 3 (2020) (0.06 [−1.41, 1.53]). Across all waves, collective control was associated with a significantly higher mental wellbeing score (3.36 [1.51, 5.21]) as was social cohesion (1.09 [0.19, 2.00]). Higher educated participants (1.99 [0.14, 3.84]) and men (2.41 [0.55, 4.28]) experienced significant increases in mental wellbeing in 2018, but lower educated participants and women did not. Conclusion: Collective control and social cohesion are associated with better mental wellbeing amongst residents engaged with the Big Local initiative. These health benefits were greater amongst men and participants from higher educational backgrounds. This suggests that additional care must be taken in future interventions to ensure that benefits are distributed equally.

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Publisher statement:© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Faculty of Public Health. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:03 August 2022
Date of first online publication:30 July 2022
Date first made open access:03 August 2022

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