Health Capital: An Empirical Study of Danish Healthcare Professionals’ Bodily Investments

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:45
Oral Presentation
Kristian LARSEN, University of Aalborg, Campus Copenhagen, Denmark, Denmark
Ivan HARSLØF, HIOA University College, Norway
Karin HØJBJERG, Aalborg University, Denmark, Denmark
Anette HINDHEDE, Aalborg University, Denmark, Denmark
The work with and on the body to improve performance and appearance may be conceived of as investments in ‘health capital’ that can maintain or optimize social position in general or in specific social fields. The work is directed towards the body or specific body parts and can articulate itself in the surgery body, the chemical body, the nutritional body, the physical body, and the mental body. As such, health capital may represent an extra card in the social game, as being played out in the labour market, in the educational system, and other arenas of social interaction.

In the health care field itself, such bodily investments may be of particular importance. The agents that occupy the field will be expected to ‘perform’ health in accordance with established knowledge regiments and practices. Arguably, their own bodies are at play in the interprofessional and professional-patient interaction. Yet, we may also expect endowments of health capital among different agents in the health care field to be differentiated along different social strata.

The paper presents results from a study of the possessions of health capital among healthcare professionals – nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurse assistants and health consultants. By use of quantitative (survey with 1,000 respondents) and qualitative data (30 individual interviews), we explore similarities and differences among and within the professions. In physiotherapy the physical body is significant and articulated in textbooks and verbally by physiotherapist (strong/weak, slim/fat), but concrete occupational positions strongly determine exactly how these are practiced, for example in opposition between private physiotherapeutic clinics opposed to public institutions. Discussing the empirical data we elaborate on theoretical implications concerning habitus, capital and field, as well as primary, secondary and tertiary socialization.