Social capital and risk and protective behaviors: a global health perspective
Linda M Kaljee, Xinguang Chen
Pediatric Prevention Research Center, The Carmen and Ann Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA
Abstract: Social capital and health research has emerged as a focus of contemporary behavioral epidemiology, while intervention research is seeking more effective measures to increase health protective behaviors and decrease health-risk behaviors. In this review we explored current literature on social capital and health outcomes at the micro-, mesa-, and macro-levels with a particular emphasis on research that incorporates a social capital framework, and adolescent and young adult engagement in risk behaviors. These data indicate that across a broad range of socio-cultural and economic contexts, social capital can affect individuals’ risk for negative health outcomes and their engagement in risk behaviors. Further research is needed which should focus on differentiating and measuring positive and negative social capital within both mainstream and alternative social networks, assessing how social constructions of gender, ethnicity, and race – within specific cultural contexts – mediate the relationship between social capital and risk and/or protective behaviors. This new research should integrate the existing research within historical socioeconomic and political conditions. In addition, social capital scales need to be developed to be both culturally and developmentally appropriate for use with adolescents living in a diversity of settings. Despite the proliferation of social capital research, the concept remains underutilized in both assessment and intervention development for adolescents’ and young adults’ engagement in risk behaviors and their associated short- and long-term poor health outcomes.
Keywords: social capital, global health, risk behaviors
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