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Social Capital and Health

As a possible determinant of population health, social capital has emerged as a topic of growing interest in the epidemiologic literature. Epidemiologic studies have explored the potential protective effects of social capital on a variety of health outcomes. This entry highlights the conceptualization of social capital, hypothesized mechanisms for its health effects, and features of the empirical evidence on the relations between social capital and health to date, including the measurement of social capital.

Conceptualization

Unlike financial capital, which resides in people's banks and in property, and human capital, which is embedded in people's education and job skills, social capital has been conceptualized to exist in people's relations to one another—that is, within social networks.

Conceptualizations of social capital have ranged from definitions focusing on the resources within ...

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