The relationship between religion and older adults' physical health

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Hastings, Kia D.
Hill, Twyla J.

Many studies have argued that religiosity has a favorable effect on longevity, particularly for the older population. This had led to various social service agencies, health practitioners and religious communities to accommodate the religious needs of the older population (Barkan & Greenwood, 2003). The purpose of this study is to examine the influence of religiosity on physical health in older adults. Data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) were used to analyze the relationship between physical health in older adults and religiosity. Religiosity was measured by religious attendance and religious salience. Physical health was measured by respondents' self-rated health. The control variables included age, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, sex and marital status. Social support was also considered an intervening variable since researchers suggest social relationships are one of the bases of religion (Krause & Cairney, 2009). The strongest finding was that higher educational attainment was associated with better ratings of health. Of the religious variables, higher religious attendance was a better predictor of better health ratings. Feelings of isolation were associated with worse health, and also had a large effect on self-rated health. Health experts should communicate with the religious communities to accommodate the needs of the older population. Religious communities can also expand their various resources to the broader community.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Sociology