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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Social Capital and Health in East Asia and China: a Conceptual and Empirical Analysis
by Wang, Wenjin, Ph.D., University of Delaware, 2020, 183; 28088202
Abstract (Summary)

Roughly defined as social networks and embedded resources, social capital and its influence on various health outcomes have been well examined over the past three decades. Higher levels of social capital are usually believed to be correlated with better physical and psychological health outcomes. However, two dimensions of social capital – “time” and “context” – are often overlooked in empirical research. First, both social capital and health are cumulative concepts, therefore the interaction between the two should be treated as a longitudinal process rather than a “point.” Second, social capital is context-specific, social capital theory and measurements based on empirical data collected in Western, developed societies may not be able to fully capture the patterns of social relations that are unique to non-Western societies such as East Asian societies, hence fail to provide an accurate understanding of the link between social capital and health in those societies.

Using the 2012 East Asian Social Survey data (EASS2012) and the 2010-2018 China Family Panel Survey data (CFPS2010-2018), this dissertation examines social capital’s structure in East Asian societies, its correlation with East Asian people’s self-rated health, and the longitudinal and accumulative effects of social capital elements on Chinese adults’ self-rated health, depression level, and chronic disease condition. Results of the Exploratory Factor Analysis models reveal a 7-factor East Asian social capital structure that represents the structures of social capital in each of the societies. Two main factors – intimate trust and strong emphasis on network heterogeneity – are the major predictors of East Asian people’s self-rated health. Multi-level analyses of the Chinese longitudinal data suggest that social capital elements have longitudinal and accumulative impacts on Chinese adults’ health outcomes. Social support, strong social ties, and perceived importance of social network demonstrate longitudinal influence on Chinese people’s health outcomes, while civil participation and social trust both show cumulative impacts on Chinese people’s health in later life. Unlike suggested by previous research, social capital measurements about neighborhood and community involvement only play a minor role in determining East Asian and Chinese people’s health conditions.

The study provides directions for future studies and policy making. First, future researchers may want to pay more attention to the longitudinal and cumulative effects of social capital on health outcomes; on the other hand, a more refined social capital theory and measurements with both commonly applicable core elements and context-specific elements is urgently needed. Finally, it would be beneficial for medical practitioners to collaborate with researchers and policy makers to design contextual intervention strategies that focus on promoting the accumulation and mobilization of social capital, which will eventually facilitate the improvement of population health.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Turkel, Gerald
Commitee: Bell, Ann V, Eeckhaut, Mieke, Sloane-White, Patricia
School: University of Delaware
Department: Sociology and Criminal Justice
School Location: United States -- Delaware
Source: DAI-A 82/4(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Sociology, Health sciences
Keywords: China, East Asia, Health, Social capital
Publication Number: 28088202
ISBN: 9798684659997
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