The social capital created in the chareidi community has an influence upon good health and compensates for the low incomes of this public. This is the interesting finding of a new study presented in the eleventh annual Conference for Health Policy (mediniyut habriyut) arranged by the National Institute for the Study of Health Services and Policies.
The study, carried out by researchers from Ben Gurion University and the Taub Center, studied the "secret connection between the chareidi lifestyle and health." Its researchers, Chen Sharoni and Professor Dov Chernichovsky, note that generally in Israel, and in the world at large, life expectancy is higher in communities and settlements where the socioeconomic scale is very high. Prominent exceptions are places such as Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, where the life expectancy is very high and the death rate relatively low, yet their socioeconomic level is very low. These three places appear on a list of twelve cities in Israel with very low death rates.
The common denominator of these places is a large chareidi population. The researchers sought to examine the thesis that social capital is the key to this enigma, that is, the nonmaterial resources available to the members of these communities, including social contact, a high level of mutual trust, mutual help and civil-communal involvement.
The study is based on a (Israel) Central Bureau of Statistics survey that included 7,000 significant observations. The findings show that the religious level among Jews has a positive impact on the health level of the community. The social capital has an exceptionally positive effect on the level of health. Among other points, the level of social isolation is very low at 11.4 percent among chareidim as compared to 24.5 percent among the secular public. As far as social contact with family and neighbors, 80 percent of chareidim are satisfied with their interactions, as compared with sixty percent in the secular sector. The volunteer work among chareidim reaches a level of 43 percent compared to a mere 21 percent among the secular public.
The conclusions of this study are that the social capital generated in the chareidi community exerts a positive effect upon good health and compensates for the low income level. The implications are that strengthening this capital resource and similar communal characteristics can serve to upgrade the level of health.