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Religion, Life Expectancy, and Disability-Free Life Expectancy Among Older Women and Men in the United States

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Carol Jagger



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Oxford University Press, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Abstract ObjectivesExisting literature shows religion is associated with health and survival separately. We extend this literature by considering health and survival together using a multistate life table approach to estimate total, disability-free, and disabled life expectancy (LE), separately for women and men, for 2 disability measures, and by 2 indicators of religion.MethodData come from the Health and Retirement Study (1998–2014 waves). Predictors include importance of religion and attendance at religious services. The disability measures are defined by ADLs and IADLs. Models control for sociodemographic and health covariates.ResultsAttendance at religious services shows a strong and consistent association with life and health expectancy. Men and women who attend services at least once a week (compared with those who attend less frequently or never) have between 1.1 and 5.1 years longer total LE and between 1.0 and 4.3 years longer ADL disability-free LE. Findings for IADL disability are similar. Importance of religion is related to total and disabled LE (both ADL and IADL), but the differentials are smaller and less consistent. Controlling for sociodemographic and health factors does not explain these associations.DiscussionBy estimating total, disability-free, and disabled LE, we are able to quantify the advantage of religion for health. Results are consistent with previous studies that have focused on health and mortality separately.

Publication metadata

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

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journals of Gerontology Series B

Year: 2019

Volume: 74

Issue: 8

Pages: e107–e118

Print publication date: 01/11/2019

Online publication date: 24/08/2018

Acceptance date: 14/08/2018

Date deposited: 08/10/2019

ISSN (print): 1079-5014

ISSN (electronic): 1758-5368

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gby098


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