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J Gen Intern Med. 2003 Jul;18(7):549-57.

Religious involvement, social support, and health among African-American women on the east side of Detroit.

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  • 1San Francisco State University, Department of Health Education, 1600 Holloway Ave., HSS 312, San Francisco, CA 94132-4161, USA.



A significant body of research suggests that religious involvement is related to better mental and physical health. Religion or spirituality was identified as an important health protective factor by women participating in the East Side Village Health Worker Partnership (ESVHWP), a community-based participatory research initiative on Detroit's east side. However, relatively little research to date has examined the mechanisms through which religion may exert a positive effect on health.


The research presented here examines the direct effects of different forms of religious involvement on health, and the mediating effects of social support received in the church as a potential mechanism that may account for observed relationships between church attendance and health.


This study involved a random sample household survey of 679 African-American women living on the east side of Detroit, conducted as part of the ESVHWP.


Results of multivariate analyses show that respondents who pray less often report a greater number of depressive symptoms, and that faith, as an important source of strength in one's daily life, is positively associated with chronic conditions such as asthma or arthritis. Tests of the mediating effect of social support in the church indicated that social support received from church members mediates the positive relationship between church attendance and specific indicators of health.


These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that one of the major ways religious involvement benefits health is through expanding an individual's social connections. The implications of these findings for research and practice are discussed.

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