Expired CME Article

Religious Involvement and Adult Mortality in the United States: Review and Perspective

Authors: Robert A. Hummer, PHD, Christopher G. Ellison, PHD, Richard G. Rogers, PHD, Benjamin E. Moulton, MA, Ron R. Romero, BA


Objectives: The scientific community has recently taken a serious interest in the relation between religious involvement and adult mortality risk in the United States. We review this literature, highlighting key findings, limitations, and future challenges.

Methods: Literature from medicine, epidemiology, and the social sciences is included.

Results: Taken together, the existing research indicates that religious involvement is related to US adult mortality risks. The evidence is strongest for public religious attendance and across specific religious denominations. The evidence is weakest for private religious activity. The mechanisms by which religious involvement appear to influence mortality include aspects of social integration, social regulation, and psychological resources.

Conclusions: The religion-mortality literature has developed in both size and quality over the past decade. Fruitful avenues for continued research include the analysis of (1) more dimensions of religious involvement, including religious life histories; (2) population subgroups, including specific race/ethnic and socioeconomic populations; and (3) a richer set of social, psychologic, and behavioral mechanisms by which religion may be related to mortality.

Key Points

* A number of high-quality, population-based studies have shown an association between higher levels of public religious attendance and lower mortality risks among US adults.

* Key confounders, such as baseline health, have accounted for a relatively small portion of this association.

* Key hypothesized mechanisms for such a relation include increased levels of social support and integration, social regulation, and psychologic resources among more religiously active persons.

* Evidence is mixed at this point for an empiric relation between private religious activity and mortality.

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