AbstractsMedical & Health Science

Healthier together? Social capital, health behaviour and health

by Tarja Nieminen

Institution: University of Helsinki
Department: Hjelt Institute, public health; National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
Year: 2015
Keywords: kansanterveystiede
Record ID: 1143326
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/153890


Social capital has been widely discussed in research. An increasing amount of literature has linked social capital to various health outcomes and well-being. However, both health and social capital are complex phenomena, and there is still inconsistency in the research findings. The general aim of this study was to examine the associations between social capital, health behaviour and health among adult Finnish population. The conceptualization and operationalization of social capital varies according to discipline and level. In this study, social capital is measured at the individual level assuming that an individual s investment in group activity reflects social capital seen as a resource related to social networks and group membership. Individual benefits are accessed through social connections in varied groups and society. Thus the resources do not reside within the individual but rather in the structure of person s social networks. Social capital was measured on three dimensions in this study: 1) social support, 2) social networks and participation and 3) trust and reciprocity. The association between these dimensions and health were examined. Health was investigated as self-rated health, psychological well-being and mortality. This study utilised the data of the Health 2000 Survey conducted in 2000−2001. Of people aged 30 and over, 89% participated in the home interview and 80% in the general health examination. The study material presents the whole population unusually well. The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL; formerly the National Public Health Institute, KTL) had the overall responsibility for the project. In addition, the project organization involved a wide range of research and funding agencies. This survey contains a rich armoury of questions about health and illnesses, health behaviour, capacity for work, functional capacity and use of health services. Furthermore, it includes a broad selection of questions used in measuring social capital. The results found an accumulation of social capital and general welfare for the same groups: the highest levels of social capital were found among the young, well-educated and married people. However, all socio-demographic subgroups seem to benefit from social capital. Regardless of all socio-demographic characteristics, high levels of social capital were associated with good health, associations which varied among different health-related behaviours, but social participation had a strong statistical association with all components of health and all health behaviours. Regardless of chronic diseases people with high levels of social capital felt healthier than those with low levels. The positive association between social capital and survival was statistically significant among men and suggestive among women. These findings indicate that social capital contributes to health. Health inequalities between population sub-groups are still substantial. Health could be promoted and health inequalities reduced by developing tools for increasing social…