Evidence Summary

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Social-capital interventions appear to help improve health outcomes in older individuals

Coll-Planas L, Nyqvist F, Puig T, et al.  Social capital interventions targeting older people and their impact on health: A systematic review  J Epidemiol Community Health. 2016 Nov.

Review question

  • How effective are social-capital interventions, or methods that increase social activity and resources, in improving the health of older adults?  


  • Social capital is defined as social activity and resources, and social ties among individuals.
  • Previous observational studies have demonstrated that social capital can act as a beneficial, protective health factor.
  • In order to see if social-capital interventions are effective in improving the health of older adults, this review sought to examine the evidence regarding the effectiveness of social-capital interventions.

How the review was done

  • A detailed search of six electronic databases for studies published from 1980 to 2015 was conducted. Studies that focused on examining social capital (e.g., social participation) in older adults were included.
  • A total of 17,341 articles were identified in searches, and 73 studies were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.
  • This study did not report financial sources.

What the researchers found

  • The review found that social-capital interventions led to immediate changes in social capital, including increased social support, increased social participation, increased social networks, and increased trust and social cohesion.
  • These changes led to improved health outcomes, including less physiological damage, increased self-esteem, and improved self-management of chronic diseases.
  • It is important to note that there was a limited amount of evidence and much variability in the evidence, so these results are not conclusive.


  • Social-capital interventions in older adults appear to lead to immediate positive changes in social capital, which can lead to further beneficial changes in health outcomes. More evidence is needed to definitively confirm these findings.

Related Topics


Observational studies
Studies where the treatment that each person receives is beyond the control of the researcher.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

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