The influence of cultural capital and life experiences on social participation, social bonding and bridging among South Asian older people

  • Kamaljit Kaur

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The UK government’s first loneliness strategy promotes socially connected communities. A social policy approach, whereby social interactions with diverse communities is promoted, aims to tackle loneliness. However, this approach may not suit everyone, as older South Asian people in the UK often do not socially interact with others outside their own faith and/or ethnicity due to cultural barriers. Focus groups were undertaken with older South Asian people from three faith groups – Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim – and across genders to identify the barriers and enablers to social participation. In addition, participatory mapping was undertaken to identify whether life experiences shape intra/inter-social bonding and/or social bridging in social networks and community activities throughout the course of life (middle to older age).

    The findings identify that both cultural capital and life experiences impact and shape social participation, the social networks and community activities that older South Asian people access across the life course, and intra/inter-social bonding and social bridging. Similarities and differences are found across faiths and genders. Personal life circumstances, migration, caring, and bereavement have been found to strengthen family networks in pre-retirement but reduce participation in community activities, particularly for women. However, retirement and older age facilitates access to community activities through social bridging across faiths and genders and to volunteering aligned to cultural values. Furthermore, for South Asian women and Muslim men, cultural barriers and faith were also found to strengthen intra-social bonding in community activities but hinder wider community participation through inter-social bonding and/or social bridging. Shared interests related to hobbies facilitated social bridging, particularly for men across the life course, but it did not lead to bridging social capital. Older South Asian people who have experienced social interactions with diverse groups of people at an earlier life stage have been found to be more likely to access a range of social networks and community activities in later life, through social bridging, and to develop bridging social capital.

    The findings suggest that adopting socially connected communities as a social policy approach will not be effective in increasing social participation and/or reducing loneliness among all older South Asian people living in the UK.
    Date of AwardJun 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorHazel Barrett (Supervisor), Michael Hardy (Supervisor) & Ann-Marie Nienaber (Supervisor)


    • older South Asians living in the UK
    • social participation
    • social bonding
    • social bridging
    • Cultural Capital
    • life experiences

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