What constitutes a health-enabling neighborhood? A grounded theory situational analysis addressing the significance of social capital and gender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Variations in health between neighborhoods are well known and the conceptualization of social capital has contributed to an understanding of how contextual factors influence these differences. Studies show positive health-effects from living in high social capital areas, at least for some population sub-groups. The aim of this qualitative study was to understand what constitutes a 'health-enabling' neighborhood. It follows up results from a social capital survey in northern Sweden indicating that the health effects of living in a high social capital neighborhood is gendered in favor of women. A grounded theory situational analysis of eight focus group discussions - four with men and four with women - illustrated similar and different positions on how neighborhood characteristics influence health. A neighborhood, where people say hi to each other ("hi-factor") and where support between neighbors exist, were factors perceived as positive for health by all, as was a good location, neighborhood greenness and proximity to essential arenas. Women perceived freedom from demands, feeling safe and city life as additional health enabling factors. For men freedom to do what you want, a sense of belonging, and countryside life were important. To have burdensome neighbors, physical disturbances and a densely living environment were perceived as negative for health in both groups while demands for a well styled home and feeling unsafe were perceived as negative for health among women. Neighborhood social capital, together with other elements in the living environment, has fundamental influence on people's perceived health. Our findings do not confirm that social capital is more important for women than for men but that distinctive form of social capital differ in impact. Investing in physical interventions, such as planning for meeting places, constructing attractive green areas, and making neighborhoods walking-friendly, may increase human interactions that is instrumental for social capital and is likely to have health promoting effects for all. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


  • Northern Sweden, Health-enabling environments, Social capital, Gender, Grounded theory, Situational analysis
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-123
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch