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Soc Sci Med. 2006 Jan;62(1):157-64. Epub 2005 Jul 5.

Religion and survival in a secular region. A twenty year follow-up of 734 Danish adults born in 1914.

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Department of Health Psychology, Institute of Public Health, Copenhagen University, Blegdamsvej 3, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark.


The aim of the study was to analyse associations of religiosity and mortality in a secular region. The sample consisted of 734 Danish, community dwelling elderly persons, living in a secular culture, and all aged 70 when primary data were collected. Secondary data consisted of a 20 year follow-up on vital status or exact age of death. The study was designed to be highly comparable to studies conducted in more religious environments in order to compare results. Three variables of religion were investigated in relation to survival: importance of affiliation, church attendance and listening to religious media. Relative hazards (RH) of dying were controlled in models including gender, education, medical and mental health, social relations, help given and received, and health behaviour. The results showed significant and positive associations between claiming religious affiliation important and survival (relative hazard of dying=RH .70; 95% CI .58-.85) and church attendance and survival (RH .73; 95% CI .64-.87). Results decreased and only stayed significant regarding church attendance when controlled for covariates. Nearly all significant effects were seen in women, but not in men. The effect size of the full sample is less than in more religious environments in United States samples. Although the positive overall RHs are comparable to those of other studies, the mediating variables and pathways of effects seem dissimilar in this sample from a secular environment. Receiving and especially giving help to others are suggested as variables of explanatory value.

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