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Am J Public Health. 1997 June; 87(6): 957–961.
PMCID: PMC1380930

Frequent attendance at religious services and mortality over 28 years.


OBJECTIVES: This study analyzed the long-term association between religious attendance and mortality to determine whether the association is explained by improvements in health practices and social connections for frequent attenders. METHODS: The association between frequent attendance and mortality over 28 years for 5286 Alameda Country Study respondents was examined. Logistic regression models analyzed associations between attendance and subsequent improvements in health practices and social connections. RESULTS: Frequent attenders had lower mortality rates than infrequent attenders (relative hazard [RH] = 0.64;95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.53,0.77). Results were stronger for females. Health adjustments had little impact, but adjustments for social connections and health practices reduced the relationship (RH = 0.77; 95% CI = 0.64, 0.93). During follow-up, frequent attenders were more likely to stop smoking, increase exercising, increase social contacts, and stay married. CONCLUSIONS: Lower mortality rates for frequent religious attenders are partly explained by improved health practices, increased social contacts, and more stable marriages occurring in conjunction with attendance. The mechanisms by which these changes occur have broad intervention implications.

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