Cultural capital and social inequality in health

University of Berne, Switzerland, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Division of Social and Behavioural Health Research, Niesenweg 6, 3012 Berne/Switzerland.
Journal of epidemiology and community health (Impact Factor: 3.5). 08/2008; 62(7):e13. DOI: 10.1136/jech.2007.066159
Source: PubMed


Economic and social resources are known to contribute to the unequal distribution of health outcomes. Culture-related factors such as normative beliefs, knowledge and behaviours have also been shown to be associated with health status. The role and function of cultural resources in the unequal distribution of health is addressed. Drawing on the work of French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, the concept of cultural capital for its contribution to the current understanding of social inequalities in health is explored. It is suggested that class related cultural resources interact with economic and social capital in the social structuring of people's health chances and choices. It is concluded that cultural capital is a key element in the behavioural transformation of social inequality into health inequality. New directions for empirical research on the interplay between economic, social and cultural capital are outlined.

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Available from: Thomas Abel, Jan 07, 2014
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    • "Likely, research into the role of cultural capital is hampered by the unfamiliarity of researchers with the concept, and by the lack of clear indicators and measures of cultural capital that can be applied to study (inequalities in) health behaviours. Abel (2008) noted that new indicators need to be developed for studying cultural capital in relation to health and health behaviour [20]. The aim of the present paper was to develop a set of questionnaire items in order to investigate to what extent the possession of cultural capital differs between socioeconomic groups, "
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    ABSTRACT: Unhealthy food choices follow a socioeconomic gradient that may partly be explained by one's 'cultural capital', as defined by Bourdieu. We aim 1) to carry out a systematic review to identify existing quantitative measures of cultural capital, 2) to develop a questionnaire to measure cultural capital for food choices, and 3) to empirically test associations of socioeconomic position with cultural capital and food choices, and of cultural capital with food choices. We systematically searched large databases for the key-word 'cultural capital' in title or abstract. Indicators of objectivised cultural capital and family institutionalised cultural capital, as identified by the review, were translated to food choice relevant indicators. For incorporated cultural capital, we used existing questionnaires that measured the concepts underlying the variety of indicators as identified by the review, i.e. participation, skills, knowledge, values. The questionnaire was empirically tested in a postal survey completed by 2,953 adults participating in the GLOBE cohort study, The Netherlands, in 2011. The review yielded 113 studies that fulfilled our inclusion criteria. Several indicators of family institutionalised (e.g. parents' education completed) and objectivised cultural capital (e.g. possession of books, art) were consistently used. Incorporated cultural capital was measured with a large variety of indicators (e.g. cultural participation, skills). Based on this, we developed a questionnaire to measure cultural capital in relation to food choices. An empirical test of the questionnaire showed acceptable overall internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha of .654; 56 items), and positive associations between socioeconomic position and cultural capital, and between cultural capital and healthy food choices. Cultural capital may be a promising determinant for (socioeconomic inequalities in) food choices.
    PLoS ONE 08/2015; 10(8):e0130695. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0130695 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Studies have, for example, pointed at the mental health risks of study stress (Mikolajczyk et al. 2008), financial problems (Cvetkovski, Reavley, and Jorm 2012; Mirowsky and Ross 2001) and temporary employment (Waenerlund, Virtanen, and Hammarström 2011) for young adults. Previous research suggests that young people's well-being needs to be understood in relation to access to financial and cultural resources, precarious labour market conditions, stress about the future and social expectations of choice (Abel 2008; Wyn, Cuervo, and Landstedt 2015). In an Australian context, Eckersley (2011) argues that youth mental illness has increased in the general population as well as among disadvantaged youth in Australia, and that these increases are related to 'fundamental social and cultural changes' that have occurred in the past few decades (Eckersley 2011). "

    Journal of Youth Studies 07/2015; DOI:10.1080/13676261.2015.1048205 · 1.38 Impact Factor
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    • "This form of cultural capital becomes directly relevant to health through the adoption of healthy lifestyles, such as engaging in preventive care (Abel 2008, Abel and Frohlich 2012, Phelan et al. 2004, Shim, 2010, Veenstra 2007). Cultural health capital theory stresses that behavioural options and preferences are structurally constrained and unequally distributed between social groups (Abel 2008). As such, micro-level practices are linked to the broader macro–structural level of unequal distribution of resources (Abel 2008, Abel and Frohlich 2012, Cockerham 2007, Mirowsky and Ross 2003, Shim 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: While there are abundant descriptions of socioeconomic inequalities in preventive health care, knowledge about the true mechanisms is still lacking. Recently, the role of cultural health capital in preventive health-care inequalities has been discussed theoretically. Given substantial analogies, we explore how our understanding of cultural health capital and preventive health-care inequalities can be advanced by applying the theoretical principles and methodology of the life-course perspective. By means of event history analysis and retrospective data from the Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement, we examine the role of cultural capital and cultural health capital during childhood on the timely initiation of mammography screening in Belgium (N = 1348). In line with cumulative disadvantage theory, the results show that childhood cultural conditions are independently associated with mammography screening, even after childhood and adulthood socioeconomic position and health are controlled for. Lingering effects from childhood are suggested by the accumulation of cultural health capital that starts early in life. Inequalities in the take-up of screening are manifested as a lower probability of ever having a mammogram, rather than in the late initiation of screening. © 2014 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness © 2014 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness/John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
    Sociology of Health & Illness 11/2014; 36(8):1259-75. DOI:10.1111/1467-9566.12169 · 1.88 Impact Factor
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