Objectives We examined the association of workplace social capital (WSC), including structural and cognitive dimensions, with refraining from seeking medical care (RSMC) among Japanese employees. Design One-year prospective cohort study. Setting and participants We surveyed 8770 employees (6881 men and 1889 women) aged 18-70 years from 12 firms in Japan using a self-administered questionnaire comprising the WSC scale and the items on potential confounders (ie, age, educational attainment and equivalent annual household income) at baseline (from April 2011 to March 2013). Outcome measures At a 1-year follow-up, we measured RSMC using a single-item question 'In the past year, have you ever refrained from visiting a hospital, clinic, acupuncturist or dentist despite your sickness (including a slight cold or cavity) or injury?' Results The results of Cox regression with robust variance showed that, after adjusting for potential confounders, the low WSC group (ie, the lowest tertile group) had a significantly higher relative risk (RR) of RSMC compared with the high WSC group (ie, the highest tertile group) among both men and women (overall WSC: RR 1.09 (95% CI 1.01 to 1.17) and 1.20 (95% CI 1.06 to 1.37); structural dimension: RR 1.13 (95% CI 1.04 to 1.22) and 1.25 (95% CI 1.07 to 1.45); and cognitive dimension: RR 1.11 (95% CI 1.03 to 1.20) and 1.21 (95% CI 1.06 to 1.38), respectively). Trend analysis using a continuous score of the WSC scale also showed a significant association of low WSC with a higher risk of RSMC among both men and women. Conclusions Our findings suggest that the lack of social capital in the workplace is associated with RSMC among Japanese employees.
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