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A Meta-Analysis of Social Capital and Health

Gilbert, Keon Lamount (2009) A Meta-Analysis of Social Capital and Health. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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BACKGROUND: Social capital is the term used to describe the results of social relationships formed by reciprocal exchanges among members of social networks such as religious, political, and other kinds of organizations. Research about this complex, widely debated concept has focused on cognitive and structural measures formed around several broad constructs: sense of community; trust and reciprocity; social support; social networks; participation; and collective efficacy. These constructs can be analyzed using individual, ecological, and multilevel analyses. However, the social capital literature provides little evidence about the relationship between social capital and health or the causes and consequences of this relationship. This lack can be attributed to definition and measurement issues within the literature, which also sustain the question of what the health benefits are from social capital. METHODS: Using a meta-analysis to examine the breadth of the social capital literature, I seek to characterize the literature and provide an overall estimated effect size that statistically describes the relationship between social capital and health. RESULTS: Meta-analysis of studies cited in the literature shows a modest positive relationship between social capital and self-reported health, social capital and all-cause mortality, and also significant, previously unexamined differences among the studies themselves: first, whether they reported an effect size or if an effect size was estimated; and second, there was a marginal difference in whether they focused on self-reported health or all-cause mortality. CONCLUSIONS: There is a modest positive association between social capital and health which suggests unexplained factors that drive the relationship between social capital and health. PUBLIC HEALTH SIGNIFICANCE: The results of this study indicate a need for social capital research to clearly define its constructs and measures and to provide more evidence about the relationship between social capital and health. Future research should identify micro- to macro-level factors that can influence this relationship. Such evidence can guide the design of future studies that seek to increase the stock of social capital for individuals and communities.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gilbert, Keon
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairQuinn, Sandra Csquinn@pitt.eduSQUINN
Committee MemberButler, Jamesjbutler9@pitt.eduJBUTLER9
Committee MemberWallace, Johnjohnw@pitt.eduJOHNW
Committee MemberMarshal, Michaelmarshalmp@upmc.eduMPM1
Committee MemberGoodman,
Committee MemberStall, Ronaldrstall@pitt.eduRSTALL
Date: 29 June 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 30 July 2008
Approval Date: 29 June 2009
Submission Date: 4 August 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
Degree: DrPH - Doctor of Public Health
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: health; meta-analysis; social capital
Other ID:, etd-08042008-173521
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:57
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2016 14:37


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