Does religious involvement affect mortality in low-income Americans? A prospective cohort study

BMJ Open. 2019 Jul 9;9(7):e028200. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-028200.


Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the impacts of various forms of religious involvement, beyond individual socioeconomic status, lifestyle factors, emotional well-being and social support, on all-cause and cause-specific mortality in socioeconomic disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Design: This is a prospective cohort study conducted from 2002 through 2015.

Settings: This study included underserved populations in the Southeastern USA.

Participants: A total of nearly 85 000 participants, primarily low-income American adults, were enrolled. Eligible participants were aged 40-79 years at enrolment, spoke English and were not under treatment for cancer within the prior year.

Results: We found that those who attended religious service attendance >1/week had 8% reduction in all-cause death and 15% reduction in cancer death relative to those who never attended. This association was substantially attenuated by depression score, social support, and socioeconomic and lifestyle covariates, and further attenuated by other forms of religious involvement. This association with all-cause mortality was found being stronger among those with higher socioeconomic status or healthier lifestyle behaviours.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that the association between religious services attendance >1/week and lower mortality was moderate but robust, and could be attenuated and modified by socioeconomic or lifestyle factors in this large prospective cohort study of underserved populations in the Southeastern USA.

Keywords: epidemiology; public health; social medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cause of Death
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Educational Status
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Religion*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Social Class
  • Social Participation*
  • Social Support*
  • United States / epidemiology