Religious involvement, mortality, and functional health status : an analysis of elderly Mexican Americans
Current research regarding the relationship between religious involvement and health outcomes is limited by the use of cross-sectional data and/or restrictive samples (e.g., non-Hispanic Whites). Yet, the general conclusion drawn by researchers is that individuals who regularly engage in religious activities live longer and report fewer difficulties in physical function. This relationship may be particularly salient among older, Hispanic adults who are faced with the risks of aging and minority group status. In order to overcome these limitations, this study analyzes data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the Hispanic Established Populations for the Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly (HEPESE) with the following specific aims: (1) to determine whether or not religious involvement is independently related to transitions in functional health status over time, (2) to investigate the possibility that the reverse causal ordering (i.e., declines in functional health status affect religious involvement) is responsible for the association between religious involvement and functional health status, (3) to evaluate the role of potential mediators including, health behaviors, social integration, and psychological resources on the relationship between religious involvement and mortality, and religious involvement and functional health status, and (4) to examine whether or not the relationship between religious involvement and mortality, and religious involvement and functional health status differ according to gender. Cox proportional hazards models are used to estimate mortality risk. Multinomial logistic regression, which adjusts for the competing risks of death and nonresponse, is used to model the effect of religious service attendance on the probability of transitions in functional state over time. The findings provide some evidence that those who attended religious services less frequently were more likely to die over the 10-year follow up. In addition, more frequent religious service attendance predicted better ADL and IADL functioning at baseline, controlling for sociodemographic factors, health behaviors, degree of social integration, and psychological resources. This effect persists over time, although it is no longer significant at the final wave. Nevertheless, religious participation is clearly of significance in the lives of elderly Mexicans, particularly women.