Religion and Spirituality as Social Determinants of Health Over the Life Course
We review the population-based research literature on religion/spirituality and health outcomes using a life course approach. We summarize findings from available studies of mortality and identify gaps in the literature. There are extremely few studies of the effects of religion on the health of infants and children. Most research on religion/spirituality and health has been limited to surveys; the inclusion of (non-self-report) infant and child outcomes is an important area for future research. For adolescents, there are many more studies, but physical health outcomes are still relatively rare; such research more frequently examines mental health outcomes and health practices. Most of the thousands of studies of religion/spirituality and health outcomes have been performed with adults and elderly persons; we summarize the mortality findings from these studies with a graphical approach, differentiating group-level from individual-level studies, and public religious involvement measures from private/subjective measures. We conclude that a) the evidence for an association between religion/spirituality and health is incomplete; b) the available evidence suggests that public/social but not private/subjective religiousness is related to lower mortality risks in adulthood; and c) a life course approach is necessary for future research on religion/spirituality and health outcomes. Overall, the evidence suggests that religious involvement represents a social influence, or determinant, of health that should be included in the framework of the social determinants of health.
Learning Areas:Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Identify major theoretical frameworks that have been used in the study of religion/spirituality and health.
Keyword(s): Faith Community, Religion
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I Have been publishing refereed articles on religion/health since the 1990s.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.