Social capital and health information seeking in China

Qianfeng Lu, Angela Chang, Guoming Yu, Ya Yang, Peter J. Schulz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: People’s potentials to seek health information can be affected by their social context, such as their social networks and the resources provided through those social networks. In the past decades, the concept of social capital has been widely used in the health realm to indicate people’s social context. However, not many such studies were conducted in China. Chinese society has its special quality that many Western societies lack: people traditionally render strong value to family relations and rely heavily on strong social ties in their social life. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the association between different types of social capital and health information-seeking behavior (HISB) in the Chinese context. The different types of social capital were primarily bonding and bridging, as well as cognitive and structural ones. Methods: Our analysis is based on a total of 3090 cases taken from the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) – China, 2017. Dataset was weighted due to the overrepresentation of female respondents and hierarchical multiple regression analyses as well as binary logistic regression tests were operated to examine the associations between people’s social capital and their HISB. Results: Some aspects of social capital emerged as positive predictors of HISB: information support (standing in for the cognitive component of social capital) promoted health information seeking, organization memberships (standing in for the structural component) encouraged cancer information seeking, and both the use of the internet and of traditional media for gaining health information were positively linked with bridging networks and organization memberships. Bonding networks (structural component) were not correlated with any other of the key variables and emotional support (cognitive social capital) was consistently associated with all health information-seeking indicators negatively. Conclusions: Social capital demonstrated significant and complex relationships with HISB in China. Structural social capital generally encouraged HISB in China, especially the bridging aspects including bridging networks and organization memberships. On the other hand, emotional support as cognitive social capital damaged people’s initiatives in seeking health-related information.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1525
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

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  • Health information-seeking behavior
  • Social capital
  • Social networks
  • Social support


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