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Am J Epidemiol. 2018 Nov 1;187(11):2355-2364. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwy142.

Associations of Religious Upbringing With Subsequent Health and Well-Being From Adolescence to Young Adulthood: An Outcome-Wide Analysis.

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1
Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.
2
Human Flourishing Program, Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Abstract

In the present study, we prospectively examined the associations of religious involvement in adolescence (including religious service attendance and prayer or meditation) with a wide array of psychological well-being, mental health, health behavior, physical health, and character strength outcomes in young adulthood. Longitudinal data from the Growing Up Today Study were analyzed using generalized estimating equations. Sample sizes ranged from 5,681 to 7,458, depending on outcome; the mean baseline age was 14.74 years, and there were 8-14 years of follow-up (1999 to either 2007, 2010, or 2013). Bonferroni correction was used to correct for multiple testing. All models were controlled for sociodemographic characteristics, maternal health, and prior values of the outcome variables whenever data were available. Compared with no attendance, at least weekly attendance of religious services was associated with greater life satisfaction and positive affect, a number of character strengths, lower probabilities of marijuana use and early sexual initiation, and fewer lifetime sexual partners. Analyses of prayer or meditation yielded similar results. Although decisions about religion are not shaped principally by health, encouraging service attendance and private practices in adolescents who already hold religious beliefs may be meaningful avenues of development and support, possibly leading to better health and well-being.

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