Tag Archives: social capital

How Does Social Capital Contribute to Health?

January 12, 2021

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In the latest in a series of topical blog pieces, Sherman Folland examines the relationship between social capital and wellbeing.

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Social Capital and Health Across the Life Cycle

December 7, 2020

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Eric Nauenberg explores the changing dynamics of social capital and health across the lifecycle.

One of the major questions not asked with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic regards the impact of the pandemic on health owing to a potential sudden shock to an individual’s stock of social capital in terms of one’s network of friends and family. It is likely with social distancing and other isolation measures in place to contain the pandemic that many people have experienced a sudden depletion in this stock – an inventory which may or may not be fully recoverable in the future.

Just as the structure of the employment landscape may be permanently altered – so too may social interactions be permanently altered in ways that may not perfectly substitute for existing social structures established over time. The life-cycle model of general consumption – developed by Modigliani and Brumberg (1954, 1980) positing an inverted U-shaped pattern as one ages – is likely applicable to social capital as well in normal times, but these times are anything but normal and the patterns may have been permanently altered in some manner that is yet to be seen. 

In Chapter 5 of The Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health dealing with social capital and health over the life cycle, I bring up the issue of virtual “social media” relationships beginning to dominate over in-person relationships and whether they serve as substitutes for the latter (Nauenberg, 2018). This pandemic has potentially further increased this dominance having ramifications for the level of support a person experiences in his/her daily life. My supposition is that the bonds that tie virtual relationships are likely to be much weaker than those that bond in-person relationships; therefore, the level of support that people may be experiencing may be substantially decreased during the pandemic and may never bounce back to baseline.

What is curious presently is that the virtual world of social relationships is now suddenly become the predominant form of relating in many areas of the working world through Zoom® and Microsoft Teams® and whatever support structures that may be present in the workforce may also emulate the patterns that are being experienced amongst one’s social circle. The same goes for school-age children particularly if on-line learning continues far into the current school year. There is a further curious trend in this pandemic that warrants some mention. It has been found that men are more at risk for worse outcomes than females across the age distribution. While both genders have the same prevalence, men have higher mortality (Jin, Bai, and He et al., 2020). In the chapter, I mention the worldwide phenomenon for men under the age of 65 to increasingly live alone. While more women live alone over the age of 65, this gap too has narrowed in recent years (United Nations Statistics Division, 2017). While there may be clinical reasons for this difference across genders in terms of differences in physical health and prevalence of pre-existing conditions, it is entirely plausible that lower levels of social capital amongst men than amongst women may potentially play a role as well. I will await the published literature to “weigh-in” on this issue.

Eric Nauenberg, Ph.D. is a Member of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, CA.

Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health edited by Sherman Folland and Eric Nauenberg is out now.

Read chapter one free on Elgaronline

Also on ElgarBlog:

Why Trust is Good for your Health by Martin Ljunge. Read Martin Ljunge’s chapter Trust promotes health: addressing reverse causality by studying children of immigrants 

The Importance of being Social –Sherman Folland investigates the influential role social capital plays in mental health and physical wellbeing.

Religious Capital, Social Capital and Health Ephraim Shapiro and Chen Sharony explore the link between religion and health

Does Health Affect Social Capital Hope Corman, Kelly Noonan, and Nancy E. Reichman examine the relationship between health and social capital.

Social Capital in Epidemiology, Martin Lindströ mexplores the link between religion, social capital and health.

Social Capital and Aging Brain Health Nicole Anderson explores the relationship between social capital and the health of the brain as it ages.

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Social Capital and Aging Brain Health

December 7, 2020

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Nicole Anderson explores the relationship between social capital and the health of the brain as it ages.

Disabling dementia, mostly from Alzheimers (60-80%) but also from other cases, is common enough so that most people have some acquaintance with it. However, experts on health policy clearly need a more thorough understanding of its medical science. In her chapter Social capital and Aging Brain Health in the Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health, Dr. Anderson, a cognitive neuroscientist and neuropsychologist, describes here Alzheimer’s (AD) genetic basis, the identified dementia risk factors emanating from our very early years in our lifespan, through midlife, and in later life.

 The genetic component of the most common variant of AD, where the symptoms tend to appear in the early 70s, is identified in 50 percent of patients with the disorder.  Clearly AD has an inherited component. But research also finds experiential risk factors that have influence.

Seven examples of these include physical factors (diabetes mellitus, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity, smoking, physical inactivity) and cognitive/psychological factors (low education, depression). Just these seven have been shown to account for nearly 30% of global cases. Other more indirect influences occur such as cognitive reserve, the beneficial experience gained when one learns to pivot from a usual cognitive method to something new.

Early Life Social Capital Contributions to Later Cognitive Health and Dementia Risk

Research findings describe risks of later dementia include a childhood spent in lower social economic status than others in the community. The same occurs when assessed in both wealthy countries and developing countries, even when high SES people and low status ones are from the same culture (Zeki al Hazzouri et al, 2011). Studies also report higher risks of dementia can arise from experiencing factors associated with systematic racial discrimination and from abusive relationships received within the family. Lower education and poor nutrition when young are also harmful factors. 

Midlife Social Capital Contributions to Cognitive Health and Dementia Risk

Higher SES in the midlife years improves cognition, and living in cities advantages cognition compared to rural living (Chiao, 2017). Working in occupations with social elements or in more cognitively complex occupations helps (Rebled et al, 2016 and Rebled et al, 2016). Cognitive activities such as playing music, reading, playing games, engaging in social activities also lowers dementia risks (Verumi et al, 2014; Schreiber et al, 2016). 

Later Life Social Capital Contributions to Cognitive Health and Dementia Risk

Enjoying a good socioeconomic position in the community is correlated with lower risk of later dementia. Stable social connections are beneficial, such as living with your spouse versus living alone (Yeh and Lo, 2004). Family and friends may also help to provide a sense of life satisfaction (Gau et al, 2007). Trusting the people in your community is important, as is volunteering for local projects, and the evidence suggests that you need only volunteer a few hours a week to reap the greatest benefits (Anderson et al, 2014). 

Conclusions

Thus while physical and complex cognitive experiences during life provide major contributions toward lower dementia risks, social factors also add substantially to these benefits. Social experiences in the very early years, during midlife, and the elderly are very important. Many of these beneficial social factors seem possible to improve with community policies. References referred to are provided more fully in the chapter.

Nicole Anderson researches the Aging Brain in her practice in neurological science and cognitive neuropsychology. She attained her graduate degrees in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to practice.

Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health edited by Sherman Folland and Eric Nauenberg is out now.

Read chapter one free on Elgaronline

Why Trust is Good for your Health by Martin Ljunge. Read Martin Ljunge’s chapter Trust promotes health: addressing reverse causality by studying children of immigrants 

The Importance of being Social –Sherman Folland investigates the influential role social capital plays in mental health and physical wellbeing.

Religious Capital, Social Capital and Health Ephraim Shapiro and Chen Sharony explore the link between religion and health

Does Health Affect Social Capital Hope Corman, Kelly Noonan, and Nancy E. Reichman examine the relationship between health and social capital.

Social Capital in Epidemiology, Martin Lindström explores the link between religion, social capital and health.

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Social Capital in Epidemiology

December 7, 2020

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Martin Lindström explores the link between religion, social capital and health.

Early studies in epidemiology followed Putnam’s (1993) method in his study of social capital effects in Italy. With contextual methods, which he generally used, effects were measured as the degree of trust in other people, reciprocity in personal relations, and social and civic participation in areas such as communities, cities, states or countries.  The social capital benefits to health were seen as reductions in psychosocial stress which derived initially for the individual, but they also fit the context approach as well. The sociology model of networks emphasizes the individual contacts with others, each of which draws benefits from the group. An early stage of epidemiology developed a focus on bonding, bridging, and linking social groups. Ecological studies focused on the relations of social capital, income inequality, and mortality, though Lindstrom explains how this poses risks, in that risk results for the individual associations with health may differ from the ecology measured effects: the ecological fallacy.

Prof. Lindstrom reasons that multilevel studies improve on these approaches and address many of their problems in epidemiology. These take two or more measures, for contextual effects and individual effects and study them jointly at different levels of analysis. Contextual properties of an area are often measured in two ways: as an average individual item, such as aspects of trust, social participation and reciprocity; the second has been to use measures more directly from whole area variables such as voting, migration turnover, and high population turnover. For example, voting and high area election participation may indicate more area concern for the community (Islam et al. 2008). Like many researchers Lindstrom emphasizes longitudinal versus cross-section studies, as models with many observations over time may clarify issues of causality. Prior social capital can help to identify how it improves health, but prior health may also improve social capital. This reverse causality can derive when healthier people have better mobility and visit friends and join social groups more often (Rocco et al, 2014). Often other studies have used the Petris Index which measures area wide social capital by average attendance in social groups, which has been found associated with better health, for example indicated by acute coronary symptoms in low income people.

Martin Lindstrom, who has contributed much social capital research from its early years to the present day, explains the methodological improvements over time to the development of multilevel studies in epidemiology. He also explains how the contextual approach and individual methods have been handled over time with the needed understanding and improvements in methods. Read more in his chapter Social capital in epidemiology in the Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health

Professor Lindstrom is Professor of Social Medicine and Health Policy, Department of Clinical Sciences in Malmo, Lund University, Sweden.

Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health edited by Sherman Folland and Eric Nauenberg is out now.

Read chapter one free on Elgaronline

Also on ElgarBlog:

Why Trust is Good for your Health by Martin Ljunge. Read Martin Ljunge’s chapter Trust promotes health: addressing reverse causality by studying children of immigrants 

The Importance of being Social –Sherman Folland investigates the influential role social capital plays in mental health and physical wellbeing.

Religious Capital, Social Capital and Health Ephraim Shapiro and Chen Sharony explore the link between religion and health

Does Health Affect Social Capital Hope Corman, Kelly Noonan, and Nancy E. Reichman examine the relationship between health and social capital.

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Does Health Affect Social Capital?

September 18, 2020

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In the latest in a series of blogs from the Contributors to the Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health, Hope Corman, Kelly Noonan, and Nancy E. Reichman examine the relationship between health and social capital.

Many people expect and believe that social capital (SC) in a community benefits their health.  This would imply that the direction of causation is from SC to better community health. Many studies support this hypothesis, but this does not rule out the possibility of the reverse direction, that better health in the first place also stimulates activities that bring improvements to the family’s social capital. This would require beneficial effects on the SC elements, for example: Trust among the residents, a sense of this community and an empathy for other people, active participation in the community, family, and local culture. Corman, Noonan, and Reichman (Ch 12) have done research in the publications reviewed by themselves in the chapter on the reverse causation experiments on the random and unexpected disorders in the newborn’s health, and secondly on the ill effects of maternal depression in the postpartum year. These are empirical experiments on carefully devised models.

Effects of Family Health Shocks on Parent’s Social Interactions

Random health shocks from newborn disorders, such as Down Syndrome, (Schultz et al, 2009) were assessed by pediatricians as well as from parental reports in the ensuing months. These found no significant effects on the parent’s social interactions.

Similarly a mother’s postpartum depression showed no effect on the family’s social capital experiences  (Corman et al, 2014). A connection with the mother’s family experience with depression appeared, but a careful investigation indicated that there were no bias effects from this.

Effects of Family Health Shocks on Parent Relationships

In contrast, unexpected health shocks in the newborn affected parent relationships surveyed 12 –18 months later. The authors (Reichman et al, 2004) found the parents couple were 10 percent less likely to live in the same household, suggesting that some felt a lower benefit from the family experience.

The effects of a mother’s postpartum depression were heavier. Among non-marital  birth couples three years later the probability of having gotten married was reduced (by 20 – 26 percent). For cohabiting or married couples three years later the likelihood of still living together was reduced (by 16-28 percent).. The emotional event apparently lowered their commitment toward living together.

The Effects of Family Health Shocks on Residential Instability

There were measured increases in family homelessness, but also of residential instability defined more widely to include: having been homeless, having been evicted, living with family or friends and not paying rent, or having frequent residential moves. The papers reported (Curtis et al, 2013, and Curtis et al, 2015) found that maternal postpartum depression increased homelessness, residential instability and housing inadequacy.

Effects of Adolescent Body Weight on Risky Sexual Behavior

Averett et al, (2013) define risky sex as: that influenced by alcohol, vaginal sex without a condom, and anal sex. The logic here is that girls with lower ability to match with an attractive male will be willing to take more sexual risks. The key is to measure the girl’s weight in relation to average weights of girls in their school. The empirical findings support the hypothesis that overweight or obese girls are more likely to have risky sex by engaging in anal sex. No significant effects were found for either sexual intercourse without a condom or sex with the influence of alcohol.

Comments: The authors’ direct involvement in researching these issues, their demonstration of reverse causality, their development of this research area, as well as its introduction to social capital economics. The complete references to the noted articles are provided in their article (Ch 12) in the Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health

Hope Corman is Professor of Economics and Director of Health Administration, Rider University and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, USA.

Kelly Noonan is Professor of Economics affiliated with Princeton University, Rider University and the National Bureau of Economic Research, USA.

Nancy E. Reichman is Professor of Pediatrics, Rutgers University’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, USA, and Status Professor at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Elgar Companion to Social Capital and Health edited by Sherman Folland and Eric Nauenberg is out now.

Read chapter one free on Elgaronline

Also on ElgarBlog:

Why Trust is Good for your Health by Martin Ljunge. Read Martin Ljunge’s chapter Trust promotes health: addressing reverse causality by studying children of immigrants 

The Importance of being Social –Sherman Folland investigates the influential role social capital plays in mental health and physical wellbeing.

Religious Capital, Social Capital and Health Ephraim Shapiro and Chen Sharony explore the link between religion and health

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