Longitudinal effects of religious involvement on religious coping and health behaviors in a national sample of African Americans

Cheryl L. Holt, David L. Roth, Jin Huang, Crystal L. Park, Eddie M. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Many studies have examined associations between religious involvement and health, linking various dimensions of religion with a range of physical health outcomes and often hypothesizing influences on health behaviors. However, far fewer studies have examined explanatory mechanisms of the religion-health connection, and most have overwhelmingly relied on cross-sectional analyses. Given the relatively high levels of religious involvement among African Americans and the important role that religious coping styles may play in health, the present study tested a longitudinal model of religious coping as a potential mediator of a multidimensional religious involvement construct (beliefs; behaviors) on multiple health behaviors (e.g., diet, physical activity, alcohol use, cancer screening). A national probability sample of African Americans was enrolled in the RHIAA (Religion and Health In African Americans) study and three waves of telephone interviews were conducted over a 5-year period (N = 565). Measurement models were fit followed by longitudinal structural models. Positive religious coping decreased modestly over time in the sample, but these reductions were attenuated for participants with stronger religious beliefs and behaviors. Decreases in negative religious coping were negligible and were not associated with either religious beliefs or religious behaviors. Religious coping was not associated with change in any of the health behaviors over time, precluding the possibility of a longitudinal mediational effect. Thus, mediation observed in previous cross-sectional analyses was not confirmed in this more rigorous longitudinal model over a 5-year period. However, findings do point to the role that religious beliefs have in protecting against declines in positive religious coping over time, which may have implications for pastoral counseling and other faith-based interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-19
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume187
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2017

Keywords

  • African American
  • Health behaviors
  • Longitudinal
  • Mediation
  • Religion
  • Religious coping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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