Objective: Previous studies have shown an association between attendance at religious services and health, particularly cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Little research has focused on religious attendance and physiological markers of cardiovascular risk. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between religious attendance and inflammatory markers of cardiovascular risk.
Method: Nationally representative sample of non-institutionalized United States adults aged 40 and over derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III 1988-1994 (n = 10,059). The main outcome measures were the inflammatory system markers C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, and white blood cell count.
Results: 40.8 percent of the population attended religious services 40 or more times in the previous year while 22.4 percent attended services less than 40 times and 36.8 percent attended no religious services at all. Non-attenders of religious services were more likely than attenders to have elevated white blood cell counts (p = .001), highly elevated C-reactive protein (p = .02), and elevated fibrinogen (p = .05). After adjusting for demographic variables, health status, and BMI, the association between religious attendance and cardiovascular markers remained. Once current smoking was added to the model the independent effect of religious attendance dropped below conventional confidence limits.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that people who have attended religious services in the previous year are less likely to have elevated levels of certain inflammatory markers, however, current smoking has significant shared variance with religious attendance.