Social Theory & Health

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 109–129 | Cite as

A resource-based theory of social capital for health research: Can it help us bridge the individual and collective facets of the concept?

  • Mikael Rostila
Original Article


The overall aim of this article is to present a resource-based definition of social capital for health research that bridges the two notions of the concept – the individual and the collective. Initially, the article reviews some of the most important theoretical definitions of social capital and discusses the development of the concept in health research. Furthermore, a model is presented that bridges the two facets of social capital. The model also suggests that the negative externalities of social capital chiefly arise when social networks and social structures are characterized by closure. The definition of social capital derived from the model claims that it comprises social resources that evolve in accessible social networks or social structures characterized by mutual trust. This definition may not definitively address the theoretical uncertainties in the health field; however, it could inspire the use of a resource-oriented theory of social capital in health research that more explicitly stresses the core of the concept: social resources. It may be relevant for health research, as it facilitates the formation of more specific mechanisms that link social capital and health, guide operationalization of social capital and specify the circumstances in which the negative health externalities of social capital arise.


social capital social resources social networks social theory health trust 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mikael Rostila
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS), Stockholm University/Karolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden

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