Cultural capital and gender differences in health behaviours: a study on eating, smoking and drinking patterns

Filippo Oncini, Raffaele Guetto

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It is widely acknowledged that people with higher socioeconomic positions and women smoke less, avoid alcohol abuse, and eat more healthily. Yet far less is known about the interaction of socioeconomic status with gender, especially in the Italian context. Here we address this issue by employing Abel’s adaptation of Bourdieu’s cultural capital theory and Courtenay’s theory of gender construction and health. Using 2012 data from the Multipurpose survey on Daily Life, we first show that cultural capital is better than social class in predicting an adult’s compliance with health recommendations, although this does not hold true for alcohol intake. We then look at the interaction of gender with cultural capital measures in order to determine how gendered forms of consumption change with increasing levels of cultural capital. The results show that the gender gap diminishes at higher levels of cultural capital following a twofold pattern: most often men’s marginal benefit increases at a higher rate than that of women; however, we also find evidence that the gap diminishes because women start adopting unhealthy behaviours as their level of cultural resources increases. Overall, these findings indicate that cultural capital plays an important role in reconstructing gender role models.
Original languageUndefined
JournalHealth Sociology Review
Early online date3 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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