Religious activity and depression among community-dwelling elderly persons with cancer: the moderating effect of race

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 1998 Jul;53(4):S218-27. doi: 10.1093/geronb/53b.4.s218.


Objectives: Research has been oriented toward elucidating the links between religion and mental health. The purpose of this article is to further our knowledge in this area by examining the effect of religious activity on depressive symptomatology among community-dwelling elderly persons with cancer. We also test whether these effects differ between Blacks and Whites.

Methods: We use two waves of data collected from a community-dwelling sample of elderly persons living in North Carolina. Depressive symptomatology is measured using four subscales from the CES-D 20 scale: somatic-retarded activity, depressed affect, positive affect, and interpersonal relations. Measures of religious activity include service attendance, religious devotion, and watching or listening to religious programs.

Results: The findings indicate that among Blacks with cancer, religious activity is related to lower levels of depressive symptomatology; no such relationship is found for respondent with other illnesses or no illness. Further, the effects of religious activity are stronger among Blacks than Whites.

Discussion: The analyses lend support to the hypothesis that religious activity is a strong predictor of depression in elderly adults with cancer. This finding, however, is not as strong as we had anticipated.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / ethnology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • North Carolina
  • Personality Inventory
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Sick Role
  • White People / psychology*