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Social capital and the social formation of health-related preferences and behaviours


Social capital appears to be an important determinant of health production and health utilization and demand. However, there is limited evidence on the mechanisms underlying this relationship. In this article we draw on the evidence and insights reported in this special issue along with findings from the economic and other social science literature to develop a discussion on the explanations of the likely (behavioural) mechanisms that underpin the connection between social capital and health. An important and under-explored influence mediating the relationship between social capital and health (behaviour) lies in the ‘social formation of health preferences and constraints’ individuals face in determining their life-styles and in using health care. In particular, we point to the interdependence in how individuals in the first place perceive and also respond to common health risks and the role of cultural transmission and social identity as conveyors of this process. We argue that an emerging body of evidence suggesting that interdependent preferences influence health calls for further re-formulation of traditional demand for and production of health models. Additionally, methodological problems are highlighted and possible ways forward suggested.

Corresponding author
* Correspondence to: Dr Joan Costa-Font, LSE Health, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK. Email:
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Health Economics, Policy and Law
  • ISSN: 1744-1331
  • EISSN: 1744-134X
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