Frequency of attendance at religious services, overweight, and obesity in American women and men: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Ann Epidemiol. 2006 Sep;16(9):655-60. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2005.11.002. Epub 2006 Jan 23.


Purpose: Few data have been published on the association of overweight and obesity and indices of religiousness, a putative protective factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, in representative samples of multiethnic total populations.

Methods: To test the hypothesis that frequency of attendance at religious services is unrelated to the prevalence of overweight and obesity, the following data from American men and women aged 20 years and older (N = 16,657) in a cross-sectional survey of a large national sample, the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, were analyzed: self-reported frequency of attendance at religious services, cigarette smoking, health status, sociodemographic variables, and measured body mass index (BMI).

Results: In persons 20 years and older, 58% of frequent attenders (> or = 52 times/y) and 53% of others were overweight or obese (BMI > or = 25 kg/m2). After stratifying to eliminate interactions in a logistic regression model and controlling for sociodemographics, smoking, and health status, no significant association was seen in European-American women overall. In all others, the significant positive associations of frequency of attendance and overweight could be explained by these other variables (fully adjusted odds ratio, 1.16; 95% confidence interval, 0.98-1.36; p = 0.08). The same was true for obesity (BMI > or = 30 kg/m2).

Conclusion: In a national sample of the US population, the prevalence of overweight or obesity is greater in self-reported frequent attenders of religious services than in others, but the association was explained by controlling for multiple sociodemographic and health variables.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Obesity / classification*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Periodicity
  • Regression Analysis
  • Religion*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United States / epidemiology