Religion and health in the US context of secularization and aging

TitleReligion and health in the US context of secularization and aging
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsBengtson, VL, Idler, E
Book TitleNew Dimensions in Spirituality, Religion, and Aging
KeywordsCognition & Reasoning, Health Conditions and Status, Religion

Trends in US religious observance increasingly show lower levels of religious affiliation and participation among younger Americans. Although older persons may have higher levels of religiosity, they also experience health problems that may limit participation. In this chapter, I analyze data from the Health and Retirement Study, which shows the expected pattern of increasing importance of religion by age group, a dimension of religious participation that would not be affected by poor health. Attendance at services weekly is also lowest for those aged 24-49 and highest for those aged 75-89, while just slightly less for those aged 90+. Further, I find that age is positively associated with both attendance and the importance of religion even when an extensive number of health status measures are controlled. Older persons with poor physical health do not show lower levels of attendance but attendance is strongly associated with poor mental health. The implications of the argument in this chapter are that increasing secularization of younger cohorts of Americans may deprive them of a social resource that is more widely available to current churchgoers.

Citation Key9993