Positive and Negative Religious Beliefs Explaining the Religion–Health Connection Among African Americans

Cheryl L. Holt, Eddie M. Clark, David L. Roth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Theory and literature suggests that the reason religiously involved people tend to have good health outcomes is because they have healthy lifestyles and behaviors in accord with religious beliefs. Other literature suggests that religious involvement may play a negative role in health outcomes due to beliefs about illness originating as punishment for sins. These ideas were tested as part of a theoretical model of the religion–health connection in a national sample of African Americans. Outcomes included a variety of health-related behaviors. Study participants (N = 2,370) randomly selected from a U.S. national call list completed a telephone survey assessing religious involvement, health behaviors, and demographic characteristics. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze study data. Findings indicate that perceived religious influence on health behavior mediated the relationship between religious beliefs and behaviors and higher fruit consumption and lower alcohol use and smoking. Belief that illness is the result of punishment for sin mediated the relationship between (a) religious beliefs and higher vegetable consumption and lower binge drinking and (b) religious behaviors and lower vegetable consumption and higher binge drinking. These findings could be applied to health education activities conducted in African American faith-based organizations, such as health ministries, in the effort to eliminate health disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-331
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal for the Psychology of Religion
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Psychology(all)

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