As interest in social capital has grown over the past decade—particularly in public health —so has the lack of consensus on exactly what it is and what makes it worth studying. Social Capital and Health presents the state of the debate, from definition to conceptualization, from effective measurement to real-world applications. The 21 contributors (headed by Ichiro Kawachi, a widely respected leader in the field, and including physicians, economists, and public health experts) discuss the potentials and pitfalls in current research, and salient examples of social capital concepts informing public health practice.
The book’s first section traces the theoretical origins of social capital, and the strengths and limitations of current methodologies of measuring it. The second half surveys the empirical data on social capital in key health areas. Among the highlights:
- Toward a definition: Individual or group entity? Negative as well as positive effects?
- Measurement methods: survey, sociometric, ethnographic, experimental
- The relationship between social capital and physical health and health behaviors: smoking, substance abuse, physical activity, sexual activity
- Social capital and mental health: early findings
- Social capital and the aging community
- Applying social capital to health communications
- Social capital and disaster preparedness
Social Capital and Health is certain to inspire researchers and advanced students in public health, health behavior, and social epidemiology. The collective insight found in these diverse perspectives should inspire a new generation of research on this topic, and lead to the development of interventions to improve public health.