Religion, death of a loved one, and hypertension among older adults in Japan

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2002 Mar;57(2):S96-S107. doi: 10.1093/geronb/57.2.s96.


Objective: To see whether three dimensions of religion (private religious practices, religious coping, and belief in the afterlife) buffer the effect of the death of a significant other on change in self-reported hypertension over time.

Methods: Interviews were conducted with a nationally representative sample of people aged 60 and older in Japan at two points in time, 1996 and 1999. Complete data were available on 1,723 older Japanese. Respondents were asked a series of questions about their religious beliefs and practices, whether a family member or close friend had died in the past year, and whether they had hypertension.

Results: The data suggest that older adults in Japan who experienced the death of a loved one but who believed in a good afterlife were less likely to report they had hypertension at the follow-up interview than elderly people in Japan who lost a close other but did not believe in a good afterlife.

Discussion: The results suggest how one overlooked dimension of religion (i.e., religious beliefs) may bolster the health of older people in the face of adversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aged / psychology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Buddhism / psychology
  • Exercise
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Hypertension / psychology*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Life Change Events
  • Logistic Models
  • Love
  • Male
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires