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09th of February 2016
Social Capital
The relationship between social capital and health has been for the first time
documented in 1901, when Emile Durkheim identified the relationship between the frequency
of suicide and the degree of social integration. Studies conducted since then have consistently
shown that the more social capital and social cohesion, the better is the health of the
population. In the last decade, this relationship has been the subject of extensive research,
which established a relationship between low levels of public trust and a high mortality rate.
The theoretical foundation of these studies consist of two main approaches to the
understanding of social capital. In the first under capital scholars refer to an individual's
resources, access to which is formed due to its entry into social networks individual social
capital (Bourdieu). In another approach, social capital is a commitment to civic engagement,
norms of reciprocity and trust between people it is seen as the property of the community,
facilitating the achievement of common goals community social capital (Putnam, Leonardi,
Nanetti 1993).
According to the "network" theory, social capital is a source of support for
individuals, enabling them, if necessary, psychological and material assistance from the social
environment and performing as a buffer against the negative effects of stress (Cohen 2004).
The influence of collective social capital to health may be associated with the strengthening
of the state social policy - as a result of the development of civil society institutions, mass
citizen participation in voluntary associations and its impact on democratic accountability of
the authorities. In addition, the strengthening of confidence in the community between the
people and the formation of a trusting relationship culture contribute to psychological
comfort in social interactions and eliminate stress related social conflicts and isolation
(Kawachi and Berkman).

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Another important conceptual distinction in social capital research involves the
separation of its "structural" (behavioral) characteristics - the people involved in the network
of social interactions, the cognitive characteristics, demonstrating their commitment to the
norms of trust and reciprocity (Putnam, Leonardi, Nanetti). The nature of the extraction of the
two types of behavioral capital - one interaction between members of a homogeneous social
group or of close friends ("bonding" social capital), and the other - the social ties that unite
representatives of different social groups (bridging social capital) are also recognized
(Kawachi, Subramanian, Kim).
Until recently, studies on the effect of social capital on health were carried out on
either on "environmental" levels, implying a comparison of its collective reserves and the
health of the community and society as a whole or at the individual level of analysis differences in people's health are due to the peculiarities of the interaction of the individual
with his social environment and his relation to other people. In recent years, more often an
impact study, takes into account both levels - the impact of individual stocks of social capital
and its contextual, community resources for health, as well as the interaction between the
individual and contextual factors (Kawachi, Subramanian, Kim).
For example, environmental studies conducted in the US show that social capital, as
recorded at the state level, has an independent effect on mortality and subjective health
indicators (Kawachi, Subramanian, Kim). Numerous studies carried out at the individual
level are compliant with the results of previous studies on the role of social networks and
social support for health (Cohen), demonstrating that people more involved in social
interaction and inclined to trust others, their health is generally better than those who do not
have these resources, even under the control of their socio-demographic differences
(Kawachi, Subramanian, Kim). The methodological criticism of these studies indicated that,
on the one hand, the effects revealed by the ecological approach may actually be due to
individual differences and population composition, and on the other - taking into account

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only the individual capital stock contextual features of their impact on health may go
unnoticed (Kawachi, Subramanian, Kim)
However, relatively few studies carried out with the use of multilevel methodology
also failed so far to make unambiguous conclusions. Some studies about social capital
influence on health found that this happens at both levels of analysis the societal and
individual (Poortinga), while other studies having found no contextual effects, confirm that
only individual social properties are important for maintaining the health (Kawachi,
Subramanian, Kim).
The results of the study of interactions between contextual and individual variables of
social capital (Cohen) also remains controversial. Thus, it has been found (Kawachi,
Subramanian, Kim), that people tend to trust others feel better in a highly trusting
community, while the health of those of its members who are suspicious of others in a
cultural environment tends to deteriorate with a sharpening of chronic diseases.
It has been suggested, that the communication of different indicators of social capital
and health may reflect the effects of parameters of such societal context, as the level of
absolute poverty and economic deprivation (Jen et al. 2010); the severity of income
inequalities (Kawachi, Subramanian, Kim); types of political system and the "welfare state"
(Rostila 2007); the effective functioning of democratic institutions (Bobak et al. 2007),
differences in culture (Eckersley 2006;), and finally, the historical events and the conditions
of life in the past (Popay 2000).
Thus, in order to eliminate contradictions in the topic of the impact of contextual
social capital on health and its interaction with the individual stocks of capital, further
empirical research is needed. It is necessary and essential for the isolation of the contextual
factors that could affect the nature of the relationship between social capital and health,
including the economic development of countries and their social policies, the quality of
public institutions and cultural features.
Works Cited

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Bobak M., Murphy M., Rose R., Marmot M. Societal characteristics and health in the
former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet
Union: a multilevel analysis. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2007,
61 (11). Print.
Bourdieu P. The forms of capital, in: ed. J. Richardson, Handbook of Theory and Research
for the Sociology of Education. NewYork: Greenwood Press, 1986. Print.
Cohen, Sh. Social Relationships and Health. American Psychologist, 2004, 59 (8). Print.
Eckersley R. Is modern western culture a health hazard? International Journal of
Epidemiology, 2006, 35 (2). Print.
Jen M.H., Sund E.R., Johnston R., Jones K. Trustful societies, trustful individuals, and
health: An analysis of self-rated health and social trust using the World Value Survey.
Health and Place, 2010, 16 (5). Print.
Kawachi I., Berkman L.F. Social cohesion, social capital, and health, in: eds. L.F. Berkman,
I. Kawachi, Social epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.
Kawachi I., Subramanian S.V., and Kim D. Social capital and health: A decade of progress
and beyond, in: eds. I. Kawachi, S.V. Subramanian, and D. Kim, Social capital and
health. New York, NY: Springer, 2008. Print.
Poortinga W. Social relations or social capital? Individual and community health effects of
bonding social capital, Social Science and Medicine, 2006a, 63 (1). Print.
Popay J. Social Capital: the Role of Narrative and Historical Research, Journal of
Epidemiology and Community Health, 2000. Print.
Putnam R.D., Leonardi R., Nanetti R. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern
Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. Print.
Rostila M. Social capital and health in European welfare regimes: a multilevel approach,
Journal of European Social Policy, 2007, 17 (3). Print.

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Scheme

Bonding Social Capital

Individual Social Capital

SOCIAL
CAPITAL
Collective Social Capital

Bridging Social Capital


Independent effect

Mortality Rate

> Social capital = death


increase

< Social capital = health


increase