Religious involvement and adult mortality in the United States: review and perspective

South Med J. 2004 Dec;97(12):1223-30. doi: 10.1097/01.SMJ.0000146547.03382.94.


Objectives: The scientific community has recently taken a serious interest in the relation between religious involvement and adult mortality risk in the United States. We review this literature, highlighting key findings, limitations, and future challenges.

Methods: Literature from medicine, epidemiology, and the social sciences is included.

Results: Taken together, the existing research indicates that religious involvement is related to US adult mortality risks. The evidence is strongest for public religious attendance and across specific religious denominations. The evidence is weakest for private religious activity. The mechanisms by which religious involvement appear to influence mortality include aspects of social integration, social regulation, and psychological resources.

Conclusions: The religion-mortality literature has developed in both size and quality over the past decade. Fruitful avenues for continued research include the analysis of (1) more dimensions of religious involvement, including religious life histories; (2) population subgroups, including specific race/ethnic and socioeconomic populations; and (3) a richer set of social, psychologic, and behavioral mechanisms by which religion may be related to mortality.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Mortality*
  • Religion and Medicine
  • United States / epidemiology