Religious participation and DSM-IV disorders among older African Americans: findings from the National Survey of American Life

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2008 Dec;16(12):957-65. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181898081.


Objectives: This study examined the religious correlates of psychiatric disorders.

Design: The analysis is based on the National Survey of American Life (NSAL). The African American sample of the NSAL is a national representative sample of households with at least one African American adult 18 years or over. This study uses the older African American subsample (N = 837).

Methods: Religious correlates of selected measures of lifetime Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) psychiatric disorders (i.e., panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress, major depressive disorder, dysthymia, bipolar I & II disorders, alcohol abuse/dependence, and drug abuse/dependence) were examined.

Participants: Data from 837 African Americans aged 55 years or older are used in this analysis.

Measurement: The DSM-IV World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to assess mental disorders. Measures of functional status (i.e., mobility and self-care) were assessed using the World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule-Second Version. Measures of organizational, nonorganizational and subjective religious involvement, number of doctor diagnosed physical health conditions, and demographic factors were assessed.

Results: Multivariate analysis found that religious service attendance was significantly and inversely associated with the odds of having a lifetime mood disorder.

Conclusions: This is the first study to investigate the relationship between religious participation and serious mental disorders among a national sample of older African Americans. The inverse relationship between religious service attendance and mood disorders is discussed. Implications for mental health treatment underscore the importance of assessing religious orientations to render more culturally sensitive care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data*
  • Religion*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology