Social Capital and Health

pp 1-26

Social Capital and Health

A Decade of Progress and Beyond
  • Ichiro KawachiAffiliated withHarvard School of Public Health
  • , S.V. SubramanianAffiliated withHarvard School of Public Health
  • , Daniel KimAffiliated withHarvard School of Public Health

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Pick any current issue of a journal such as Social Science & Medicine or the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and one is bound to see a featured article about social capital and health. Search on Pubmed for “social capital and health”, and one sees over 27,500 articles listed (as of December 2006). Enter the same search term in Google, and you get over 9 million hits. Yet wind the clock back to circa 1996 and one would be hard pressed to find an article in the public health literature that even mentioned this concept. In other words, within a short span of a decade, social capital has entered the mainstream of public health discourse, where it is now the theme of professional conferences, as well as the topic of white papers put out by government health agencies worldwide. For sure social capital was talked about in fields outside public health prior to 1996 – in sociology (Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1990), economics (Loury, 1992), and political science (Putnam, 1993) – but the explosion of interest in applying the concept to public health is a comparatively recent phenomenon (Figure 1.1).