The aim of the research reported here was to examine the causal impact of social capital on health in 14 European countries. Using data from the European Social Survey for 14 European countries, supplemented by regional-level data, the authors studied whether individual and/or community-level social capital positively affects health. The authors controlled for other relevant factors that are also expected to affect health, and addressed – via an instrumental variable approach – the challenge of assessing causality in the relationship between social capital and health. The large variance of the error term due to measurement errors calls for strong instruments to obtain reliable estimates in a finite sample. The dataset is rich enough in information to allow the finding of a seemingly strong causal relationship between social capital and individual health. Community social capital (defined at regional level) appears not to affect health once individual-level social capital is controlled for. Taken at face value, the findings suggest that policy interventions should be targeted at improving primarily individual social capital. In doing so they would achieve a double effect: on the one hand they would directly improve individual health; on the other they would contribute to community social capital, which reinforces the beneficial role of individual social capital.
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