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Social capital and health of older Europeans: Causal pathways and health inequalities

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  • Sirven, Nicolas
  • Debrand, Thierry

Abstract

This study uses a time-based approach to examine the causal relationship (Granger-like) between health and social capital for older people in Europe. We use panel data from waves 1 and 2 of SHARE (the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe) for the analysis. Additional wave 3 data on retrospective life histories (SHARELIFE) are used to model the initial conditions in the model. For each of the first 2 waves, a dummy variable for involvement in social activities (voluntary associations, church, social clubs, etc.) is used as a proxy for social capital as involvement in Putnamesque associations; and seven health dichotomous variables are retained, covering a wide range of physical and mental health measures. A bivariate recursive Probit model is used to simultaneously investigate (i) the influence of baseline social capital on current health – controlling for baseline health and other current covariates, and (ii) the impact of baseline health on current participation in social activities – controlling for baseline social capital and other current covariates. As expected, we account for a reversed causal effect: individual social capital has a causal beneficial impact on health and vice-versa. However, the effect of health on social capital appears to be significantly higher than the social capital effect on health. These results indicate that the sub-population reaching 50 years old in good health has a higher propensity to take part in social activities and to benefit from it. Conversely, the other part of the population in poor health at 50, may see their health worsening faster because of the missing beneficial effect of social capital. Social capital may therefore be a potential vector of health inequalities for the older population.

Suggested Citation

  • Sirven, Nicolas & Debrand, Thierry, 2012. "Social capital and health of older Europeans: Causal pathways and health inequalities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(7), pages 1288-1295.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:7:p:1288-1295
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.05.009
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Xindong Xue & W. Robert Reed, 2015. "The Relationship Between Social Capital And Health In China," Working Papers in Economics 15/05, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
    2. repec:eee:hepoli:v:121:y:2017:i:7:p:778-785 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Brenda Gannon & Jennifer Roberts, 2012. "Social Capital: Bridging the Theory and Empirical Divide," Working Papers 2012028, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics.
    4. Knapp, Martin, 2015. "Reflecting on ‘An economic model of social capital and health’," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 62736, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Christian Deindl & Martina Brandt & Karsten Hank, 2016. "Social Networks, Social Cohesion, and Later-Life Health," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 126(3), pages 1175-1187, April.
    6. Muennig, Peter & Cohen, Alison K. & Palmer, Aileen & Zhu, Wenyi, 2013. "The relationship between five different measures of structural social capital, medical examination outcomes, and mortality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 18-26.
    7. Nicolas Sirven, 2012. "On the Socio-Economic Determinants of Frailty: Findings from Panel and Retrospective Data from SHARE," Working Papers DT52, IRDES institut for research and information in health economics, revised Dec 2012.
    8. Liu, Gordon G. & Xue, Xindong & Yu, Chenxi & Wang, Yafeng, 2016. "How does social capital matter to the health status of older adults? Evidence from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Survey," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 177-189.
    9. Brenda Gannon & Jennifer Roberts, 2014. "The Multidimensional Nature of Social Capital: An Empirical Investigation for Older People in Europe," Working Papers 2014014, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics.

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