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Journal Article

Religion, Disability, Depression, and the Timing of Death

Ellen L. Idler and Stanislav V. Kasl
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 97, No. 4, New Directions in the Sociology of Medicine (Jan., 1992), pp. 1052-1079
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2781506
Page Count: 28
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Religion, Disability, Depression, and the Timing of Death
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Abstract

Despite its importance in Durkheim's work, the subject of religion's influence on health and well-being is rarely addressed in contemporary sociological research. This study of elderly persons in New Haven, Connecticut, examines the prospective relationship between religious involvement and several aspects of health status. Results show significant protective effects of public religious in volvement against disability among men and women and of private religious involvement against depression among recently disabled men over a three-year period. Religious group membership also protected Christians and Jews against mortality in the month before their respective religious holidays during a six-year period. The article concludes that religious involvement exerts a strong positive effect on the health of the elderly; that this effect varies by religious group and by sex; that the health behaviors, social contacts, and optimistic attitudes of religious group members may explain part but not all of this association; and that several aspects of religious experience, such as participation in ritual and religion's provision of meaning play a role.

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