Chapter 9 – Social and Community Characteristics and their Influence upon Health

Lecturer PowerPoint
Lecturer Lesson Plan
Additional Case Study
3 Papers
3 Websites
3 Media Articles
Learning Tasks Discussion
Issues you may have considered in relation to the Learning Tasks in the book…

Learning Task 1: Your social network map

Examine the social network map that you have drawn and consider the following questions:
– How well connected do you think you are and why?
– What is more important to you? How many people and organizations are in your networks or the quality of the network? How do you assess that quality?
– What form do these networks take? Virtual or face-to-face. Are there distinctions you make about how you use the different forms of interactions?
– How do these networks influence your health?

Learning Task 2: Measuring social capital

Some issues that you may have considered are:
Was it developed from strong conceptual frameworks drawn from the literature and therefore likely to have good validity?
Is there any evidence that the question bank was tested to assess reliability and validity by piloting?
What methods of administration could be used, e.g. face-to-face administration, online, telephone and postal methods? How could the response rate be increased?
What length and depth is the questionnaire?

Learning Task 3: Example of a connected community?

You should be able to find examples of different projects from the website that develop social support. While House (1981) identifies the four different types, they are often interwoven in projects. For example, the physical hub of the Lifelong Learning Centre offers opportunities for people to meet one another socially in the Communi-Café. It is within these spaces that friendship groups may be formed leading to generation of emotional and appraisal types of social support. Informational social support can be gained via the Learning Champions Project in which 150 individuals encourage their families, friends and neighbours to take advantage of training and volunteering opportunities.

A good example of this is the Neighbourhoods Service Company who employ local people who have been trained at the Lifelong Learning Centre to work on their community farm or within building construction. The local built environment is improved and maintained. While on the surface this may not be related to health, the project has been successful at creating employment in an area of relatively high unemployment. As you will have seen in several of the chapters, having a job is related to good mental health and longer life expectancy. Improvement of the built environment and the creation of green spaces and more aesthetically pleasing physical localities encourage people to take in leisure and physical activity.

Learning Task 4: Communities and social capital

Volunteering can help to build social capital through the creation of networks and increased levels of trust; internally in organizations and externally in the wider community. Volunteering is associated with a range of positive outcomes for individual volunteers and is often beneficial for the organizations hosting volunteers – see NCVO Why Volunteer?. However, there are inequalities in volunteering in terms of who has the time and availability, as well as the communities in which volunteering takes place.

Communities can be given more power from government agency and the UK government has been encouraging this since 2011 (see The Localism Act 2011). However, some argue that such approaches do not really change anything for communities, and many questions arise about power, involvement, inclusion and engagement. Some communities with high levels of social capital are not positive for health.

People can be encouraged to become more involved via specific initiatives (projects such as community gardens, befriending schemes, etc.) as well as policy such as the Localism Act. However, not everyone has the time available or the capacity to be a volunteer, which is why volunteering in the UK tends to mainly involve white middle-class community members, excluding other groups of people.

Social capital is a complex concept, so you will have had a lot to think about here – individual factors such as levels of education, area-based factors such as socio-economic status, history, size of the community and its demographic characteristics. See WHO (2012) ‘Is social capital good for health? A European perspective’ for more on this.

Multiple Choice Quiz

1. All but one of the following are not classified as types of social support in House’s characterization. Select the answer which is NOT type of social support.
a. Emotional social support
b. Density of social support
c. Instrumental social support
d. Informational social support


The correct answer is b.

2. Which of the following distinguishes social capital from social support in Putnam’s definition of social capital?
a. Emphasis on interactions between friends
b. Emphasis on interactions between individuals and social organizations
c. Emphasis on interactions within families
d. Emphasis on interactions with work colleagues


The correct answer is b.

3. What does Winter argue works against the development social capital?
a. Trust in organizations
b. Civic participation
c. Volunteering
d. Strong family bonds


The correct answer is d.

4. Which of the following is NOT a proposed biological mechanism that results from social support processes leading the improvements in health?
a. Lowering blood pressure
b. Compliance with health plans
c. Stress hormone regulation
d. Boosting immune response


The correct answer is b.

5. What does Putnam suggest is a crude but valid way to measure social capital?
a. Measuring social cohesion
b. Measuring the amount of people in a social network
c. Measuring voting in elections
d. Measuring trust


The correct answer is d.

6. What three conditions are thought to favour the development of social capital?
a. Equal distribution of wealth across social groups
b. Conflict
c. Democracy
d. Equal distribution of employment


The correct answers are a, c and d.

7. Which is NOT a type of social capital?
a. Buffering
b. Linking
c. Bridging
d. Bonding


The correct answer is a.

8. Which of the following can generate social capital?
a. Increasing wages
b. Facilitating community participation in decision-making
c. Centralizing power in the state
d. Having full employment


The correct answer is b.

9. Which of the following can be used to describe a social support network?
a. Density of the network
b. Frequenct of the contacts in the network
c. Reciprocity
d. Diversity


All the answers are correct.

10. On what does Stansfeld place great emphasis when considering the health gains derived from social support?
a. Density of the network
b. Frequenct of the contacts in the network
c. Reciprocity
d. Diversity


The correct answer is c.

Additional Case Study: Social media and social capital among university students

Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe (2006) investigated how university students used Facebook to present their ‘self‘ to others and create new and maintain social networks. Social networking sites tend to develop what have previously been described as ‘weak ties’ (Granovetter, 1982) and these types of connection have been criticized for being too superficial. Facebook is often represented negatively within media and there are undoubtedly issues about confidentiality and identification of the user. But for some subcultures and key groups, digital connections offer important mechanisms to ‘belong’ and may lead to improved individual and community-based health outcomes.

Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe (2006) measured bonding and bridging social capital and the intensity of Facebook use. Evidence presented within their findings suggests that Facebook has a large impact on students’ ability to develop and maintain bridging, bonding social capital at university. Students who reported higher use of Facebook were more likely to feel like they belonged to a community, trusted people to help solve problems, offer advice and help with obtaining employment. While it was not possible in this study to present evidence of causality, i.e. that using Facebook intensively leads to increases in social capital and health outcomes, it is clear that these finding suggest that they are associated relatively strongly.

The health implications of these reported benefits are clear and these digital networks may offer opportunities for practitioners to utilize technology to develop sustainable bonded communities which may act collectively.

3 Papers

Rafiey, H., Alipour, F., LeBeau, R., Salimi, Y. and Ahmadi, S. (2019) Exploring the Buffering Role of Social Capital in the Development of Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms Among Iranian Earthquake Survivors. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. LINK
Social capital, or the resources that an individual can draw on through his or her social networks and the value ascribed to these resources by the individual, has been hypothesized to be an important factor in the development of mental health problems following a natural disaster. Nevertheless, little research has been conducted in this area. The present study aimed to evaluate the potential buffering effect of the two types of social capital— bonding and bridging social capital— on the association between severity of trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in a large sample of earthquake survivors in Iran.

Kumar, Y.S., Rakesh, P.S., Kalyana-Chakravarthy, P. and Kumar, S.V. (2019) Relationship between Dental Caries Experience and Social Capital among Children – A Pilot Study. Indian Journal of Community Medicine, 44, S3-6. LINK
The effect of larger and distal environmental and societal factors on oral health is established and the concept of social capital (SC) is gaining importance. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association of dental caries (DC) experience of children with parental social capital.

Kordan, Z., Lolaty, H.A., Mousavinasab, S.N. and Fard, J.H. (2019) Relationship between psychological well-being and social capital and resilience among cancer patients. Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Sciences, 6, 131-137. LINK
Research revealed resilience can decrease the effects of stress and improve quality of life among cancer patients. The role of positive factors such as psychological well-being and social capital is separately studied in cancer. The aim of the present study was to determine the relationship between the psychological well-being and social capital with resilience among cancer patients.

3 Websites

1. Office of National Statistics
Materials and resources on the measurement of social capital.

2. Thinking Allowed Radio 4
Debate about the nature of social capital between David Halpern of the Institute for Government and sociologist Ben Fine. Excerpt on social capital starts 12 minutes into the programme and lasts for 16 minutes.

3. OECD Human Insights
Paper on Social Capital.

3 Media Articles

1. Social networking media 1 and 2
These articles examine how social media networks were thought to play a role in fuelling the summer riots in England in the summer of 2011 and also how they were harnessed for community action to clean up after the nights of rioting.

2. Volunteering
Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane unearths Britain’s hidden army of volunteers.

3. The Happiness Formula
This collection of resources contains a useful video about what makes us happy (see ‘The happiness recipe’) about the importance of social relationships for health.