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.