Religious influences on preventive health care use in a nationally representative sample of middle-age women

J Behav Med. 2006 Feb;29(1):1-16. doi: 10.1007/s10865-005-9035-2. Epub 2006 Jan 6.


Despite the many benefits of preventive services, they are often underutilized. Social factors, such as religion, can figure prominently in these discrepancies by either creating barriers or facilitating use. Using data from the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS, 1992-1996), the current study examines the relationship between religious attendance, religious salience, and denomination and three types of female preventive services in a sample of middle-age women (N = 4253). Findings indicate that women who attend religious services more frequently use more mammograms, Pap smears, and self-breast exams. In addition, women belonging to Mainline Protestant or Jewish denominations use certain preventive services more than Evangelical Protestants. Finally, women with higher levels of religious salience are more likely to conduct self-breast exams. These findings add important information to the public health literature concerning factors that influence preventive service use. They also add to the growing field of religion and health research where preventive health care use is emerging as a possible mechanism linking religion to a wide variety of physical health outcomes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast Self-Examination / psychology
  • Breast Self-Examination / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Mammography / psychology
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Utilization Review
  • Vaginal Smears / psychology
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data