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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2002 Nov;57(6):S332-47.

Church-based social support and health in old age: exploring variations by race.

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  • 1School of Public Health and Institute of Gerontology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.



A conceptual model is evaluated that explores the relationship between church-based support and health. In the process, an effort is made to see if the relationships in this model differ for older White and African American people.


Interviews were conducted with a national sample of 748 older White and 752 older Black people. The responses of 1,126 of these study participants are used in the analyses presented herein. Survey measures were administered to assess church-based social ties and health.


Empirical support was provided for the following theoretical linkages: Older people who attend church often feel their congregations are more cohesive; older people in highly cohesive congregations receive more spiritual and emotional support from their fellow parishioners; older respondents who receive more church-based support have a more personal relationship with God; older people who feel more closely connected with God are more optimistic; and older people who are more optimistic enjoy better health. Data further reveal that older Black people are more likely than older White people to reap the health-related benefits of religion.


The findings contribute to research on religion and health by specifying how the salubrious effects of religion may arise.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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