Objective: To identify validated information available on the relationship between social capital (SC) and health in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
Methods: A systematic search for papers published from January 1990-June 2007 was conducted on the Medline, SciELO, LILACS, and the Cochrane Library databases. All of the research and review articles published by scientific journals that evaluated CS and its relationship to health in LAC were included in the analysis.
Results: Fifteen articles were found (11 original research and 4 reviews). The health topics examined by the research articles were: (a) mortality and life expectancy, (b) mental health, (c) injuries, (d) nutritional status, and (e) immunization. The validity of these works, the results, and the principal conclusions were analyzed in depth.
Conclusions: Despite limitations inherent to the CS concept and the studies identified, it was confirmed that scientific evidence exists to support the possible association between CS and health in LAC. CS could play a protective role in certain health areas, such as injury prevention and mental health; not withstanding, the relationship between CS and health could vary according to CS subtype and socioeconomic context and culture. It is therefore imperative to continue social epidemiology research that thoroughly investigates the relationship between social determinants and specific aspects of health in LAC context.