Social Capital in hospitals


The Danish health care sector faces a challenge to balance efficiency and quality of patient care under the pressure of limited resources and budget cuts. As a consequence, hospital employees may be facing stressful work conditions in terms of high work load and time pressure. This may increase the risk of mental health problems at the individual level as well as poor co-operation between staff at the departmental level. Combined, it may increase the risk of inefficiency, poor quality of care or even malpractice. Cooperation between colleagues and across professional groups and departments is central to assure high quality care for patients. Over the past decades, social capital in occupational settings has received increasing attention in that the concept differentiates from other measures of psychological work environment (e.g. job strain or effort-reward imbalance) by being a positive resource for the work environment - and by being a characteristic of the workplace rather than the individual perception of the work environment. Social capital encompasses elements such as norms and trust between co-workers, which facilitate coordination and the ability to co-operate. In periods of high demands, workplaces with high social capital may be more efficient in buffering employees’ stress levels and the transmission of informal social norms may lead to healthier lifestyles.

The purpose of the research programme is to address the relationship between social capital and the employees’ well-being, quality of care and efficiency at the Danish hospitals and to investigate the extent to which social capital can mitigate the negative effects of a straining mental and physical working environment. Further, the research program aims to assess how changes in social capital over time influence the job satisfaction and absenteeism among the employees.


The project is based on multi-wave data from approx. 30,000 employees at the hospitals in the Capital Region of Denmark, the Well-being in HospitAL Employee (WHALE) study. The data material includes measures of social capital, job satisfaction and absenteeism as well as patient satisfaction and re-admission rates.

Contact persons: Naja Hulvej Rod ( and Eszter Török (