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How much does social capital add to individual health? A survey study of Russians

by Richard Rose
Social Science and Medicine ()

Abstract

Some Russians are healthier than others. To what extent does their health vary with involvement or exclusion from social capital networks? The first section reviews alternative theories: human capital as the primary determinant; social capital, whether generic, situation-specific or simply a new label for old measures of social integration; or a composite theory - both human and social capital are major determinants of health. The evidence to test hypotheses consists of individual-level data about self-assessed physical and emotional health from the special-purpose social capital questionnaire used in the 1998 New Russia Barometer survey, a nationwide representative sample of the adult Russian population. Multiple regression analysis shows that on their own human capital and social capital each account for a notable amount of variance in health. When both forms of capital are combined in a composite model, each retains major influence, demonstrating that social capital does make an independent contribution to health. Significant social capital influences include involvement or exclusion from formal and informal networks; friends to rely on when ill; control over one's own life; and trust. Significant human capital influences besides age include subjective social status, gender and income. Regression-based estimates of impact show that social capital increases physical and emotional health more than human capital; together they can easily raise an individual's self-reported health from just below average on a five-point scale to approaching good health. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

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