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Religiosity and health: A global comparative study

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Carol Jagger



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2018 The Authors The objective of this paper is to understand global connections between indicators of religiosity and health and how these differ cross-nationally. Data are from World Values Surveys (93 countries, N=121,770). Health is based on a self-assessed question about overall health. First, country-specific regressions are examined to determine the association separately in each country. Next, country-level variables and cross-level interactions are added to multilevel models to assess whether and how context affects health and religiosity slopes. Results indicate enormous variation in associations between religiosity and health across countries and religiosity indicators. Significant positive associations between all religiosity measures and health exist in only three countries (Georgia, South Africa, and USA); negative associations in only two (Slovenia and Tunisia). Macro-level variables explain some of this divergence. Greater participation in religious activity relates to better health in countries characterized as being religiously diverse. The importance in god and pondering life's meaning is more likely associated with better health in countries with low levels of the Human Development Index. Pondering life's meaning more likely associates with better health in countries that place more stringent restrictions on religious practice. Religiosity is less likely to be related to good health in communist and former communist countries of Asia and Eastern Europe. In conclusion, the association between religiosity and health is complex, being partly shaped by geopolitical and macro psychosocial contexts.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Zimmer Z, Rojo F, Ofstedal MB, Chiu C-T, Saito Y, Jagger C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: SSM - Population Health

Year: 2019

Volume: 7

Print publication date: 01/04/2019

Online publication date: 15/11/2018

Acceptance date: 11/11/2018

Date deposited: 03/01/2019

ISSN (electronic): 2352-8273

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2018.11.006


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