Objectives: This study examines whether attendance at religious services has an inverse association with cognitive dysfunction in an elderly cohort in whom it has already been shown that religious attendance has an inverse association with physical disability and that social engagement has an inverse association with cognitive decline.
Methods: The study population is a racially and religiously diverse sample of 2,812 community-dwelling men and women from New Haven, Connecticut; it was representative of New Haven in 1982, but not of the United States then or now. The primary study hypothesis proposes that attendance at religious services as measured in 1982 contributes to the prediction of lower levels of cognitive dysfunction in 1985 and 1988. A multivariate logistic regression analysis controlling for seven sociodemographic, four behavioral, and seven biomedical covariables is conducted.
Results: Study results show an inverse association between religious attendance in 1982 and cognitive dysfunction in 1985 (odds ratio = 0.64; 95% confidence interval = 0.49, 0.85). Religious attendance as measured in 1982 no longer contributes to the prediction of cognitive dysfunction in 1988.
Discussion: The short-term nature of the effect is partially explained by differential mortality. Persons with infrequent religious service attendance and with high levels of cognitive dysfunction in 1982 were more likely to die in the period from 1985 to 1988.