A social capital framework for palliative care: Supporting health and well-being for people with life-limiting illness and their carers through social relations and networks

Joanne M. Lewis, Michelle Digiacomo, Tim Luckett, Patricia M. Davidson, David C. Currow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Context: Social relations and networks are vital for sustaining and enhancing end-of-life care. The social capital concept supports a framework to understand the association between social relations and well-being; yet, to date, there has been very limited investigation of social capital in the palliative care literature. A framework for understanding social contexts in end-of-life care is necessary. Objectives: To summarize the literature on social capital, well-being, and quality of life for key outcomes to inform a model of social capital in palliative care. Methods: The electronic databases MEDLINE (1997 to March 2011), Embase (1997 to March 2011), CINAHL (1997 to March 2011), and PsycINFO (1997 to March 2011) were searched using key/MeSH search terms of "social capital," "palliative care," and "well-being" and/or "quality of life." The literature was reviewed to identify key concepts to develop and inform a palliative care social capital framework. Results: A total of 93 articles were included in the literature review, with only two articles identifying discourse on social capital and palliative care. Four key areas integrating the social capital outcomes informed a framework for palliative care. Conclusion: The social capital concept provides a structure for understanding how the organization and meaning of social contexts can potentially enhance or hinder end-of-life care. Research that identifies specificity in application of social capital concepts is fundamental to issues of access to services, sustaining levels of care, quality of life, and well-being. The importance of "bridged" social capital relations and networks for improved resource acquisition and information flow was identified in the literature and outlined within the palliative care social capital framework. Differential access to social capital by disadvantaged groups provides further impetus to engage a model of social capital for palliative care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-103
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013



  • Social capital
  • end-of-life care
  • palliative care
  • quality of life
  • social relations and networks
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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