Religious Participation Effects on Mental and Physical Health
Nolan, Jennifer A.
The first section of the dissertation provides a review of the literature, conceptual distinctions between religiousness and spirituality, and four key hypothesized pathways identified and categorized from the literature, posited to explain the effects of religious participation on health. The second section investigates the relationship of religious participation to physical health, mental health and depression and the mediating behavioral pathway of cigarette and alcohol use. The study focuses on a sample of 2,102 individuals followed from 1979 to 2000, utilizing data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 79 (NLSY79). The main findings are the following. Cross-sectional analysis revealed a positive U-shaped relationship between religious attendance and physical health in the year 2000, controlling for sociodemographic variables of gender, race, marital status, education, number of children living in a household, work amount, and income. Attendance levels of once per week to infrequent were related to better physical health scores. Attendance among individuals of low socio-economic status (SES) was associated with better physical health compared with no attendance. African Americans reported better mental health and lower depression scores with higher attendance levels compared to no attendance; Caucasians showed the opposite trend. Examining the data longitudinally from 1982 to 2000, early attendance in young adulthood was found to be positively associated with better mental health and less depression in mid-adulthood, controlling for key sociodemographic variables. The behavior of cigarette smoking frequency was a mediator between the relationship of religious attendance and depression, controlling for key sociodemographic variables. Alcohol abuse/dependency and heavy drinking showed evidence of mild mediation. Attendance in young adulthood was protective against alcohol abuse/dependency, heavy drinking and smoking in mid-adulthood. In addition, the dissertation includes the development of a framework for future qualitative analysis of exploratory interviews with professionals at international humanitarian organizations on how religious beliefs and practices of a targeted population are taken into account in health projects. Major themes explored are conceptualizations of religiousness, spirituality and health, theorized mediating pathways, field experiences and institutional policies. Overall this research provides evidence to support the relationship between religious participation and mental health, depression and physical health.
Religious Participation; Religious Attendance; Mental Health; Physical Health; Depression; Religiousness; Mediators; Religion; Behavioral Pathway; Religious Service Attendance; National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979; Church Attendance; Epidemiology of Religion; Religiousness and Spirituality Conceptualizations; SF-12 Physical Health Composite Score (SF-12 PCS); SF-12 Mental Health Composite Score (SF-12 MCS); CES-Depression Score (CES-D); Interactions; NLSY79
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