The evolution of social health research topics: A data-driven analysis

Sun Mi Cho, Chan ung Park, Min Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The realm of social health has not yet been properly established in terms of fixed definitions, concepts, and research areas. This study attempts to define social health using macro and micro perspectives and explores trends in social health research by mapping their topics and fields. We used Latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) topic modeling, which allows the extraction of key terms and topics derived from a large volume of literature. We traced the evolution of research topics from past (the literature that “present” articles cited), present (existing journal articles on social health), to future (the literature which cited the articles) studies based on connections between citations. The datasets were collected by the query terms “social health” in the Scopus database, including title, abstract, and keywords of journal articles. We collected a total of 443 articles from recent social health literature, 6588 articles from past literature that the recent articles on social health cited, and 2680 articles from future literature in which recent social health articles were cited. We defined social health as positive interaction that increases individual engagement in social life at the micro level, and the high degree of social integration that deals with collective problems in society at the macro level. The results of LDA showed that social health research has developed into seven fields: Health Care Delivery; Vulnerable Groups; Measurement; Health Inequality; Social Network and Empowerment; Clinical/Physical Health; and Mental/Behavioral Health. Based on citation relationships, topics grounded in an individual/micro perspective have grown increasingly specialized and productive, while topics grounded in a social/macro perspective have stagnated or was underexplored. Our findings imply that social health studies should follow a more interdisciplinary approach to integrate current health models of individual-centered treatments with social science concerns on building collective capacity for social well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113299
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Nov

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2018S1A3A2075114). This funding source had no role in the design of this study and will not have any role during its execution, analyses, interpretation of the data, or decision to submit results.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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