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Gerontologist. 2013 Feb;53(1):26-38. doi: 10.1093/geront/gns064. Epub 2012 May 15.

"You need a song to bring you through": the use of religious songs to manage stressful life events.

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  • 1University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7460, USA.



To explore in a sample of older African Americans how religious songs were used to cope with stressful life events and to explore the religious beliefs associated with these songs.


Sixty-five African American older adults residing in the Southeastern US participated in a qualitative descriptive study involving criterion sampling, open-ended semi-structured interviews, qualitative content analysis, and descriptive statistics.


Religion expressed through song was a coping strategy for participants experiencing stressful life events who described feelings of being comforted, strengthened, able to endure, uplifted, and able to find peace by turning to the types of religious songs described here. Five types of songs were used including those evoking Thanksgiving and Praise, Instructive, Memory of Forefathers, Communication with God, and Life after Death.


Religious songs are an important form of religious expression important to the mental health of older African Americans. The incorporation of religious songs into spiritual care interventions might enhance the cultural relevance of mental health interventions in this population.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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