Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Losing your religion may be unhealthy, research suggests

Date:
September 23, 2010
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
People who leave strict religious groups are more likely to say their health is worse than members who remain in the group, according to new research.

People who leave strict religious groups are more likely to say their health is worse than members who remain in the group, according to a Penn State researcher.

The percentage of people who left a strict religious group and reported they were in excellent health was about half that of people who stayed in the group, said Christopher Scheitle, senior research assistant, in sociology.

"Previous research showed some association between belonging to a religious group and positive health outcomes," Scheitle said. "We became interested in what would happen to your health if you left a religious group. Would people demonstrate any negative health outcomes?"

About 40 percent of members of strict religious groups reported they were in excellent health, according to the study. However, only 25 percent of members in those groups who switched to another religion reported they were in excellent health. The percentage of the strict religious group members who dropped out of religion completely and said their health was excellent fell to 20 percent. The difference between switchers and non-switchers, in reference to health, is statistically significant for the strict groups. The researchers reported their findings in the current issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

The study also indicated that people who were raised and remained in strict religious groups were more likely to report they were in better health than people affiliated with other religious groups. Scheitle, working with Amy Adamczyk, assistant professor of sociology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at the graduate center, City University of New York, defined strict religions, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses, as exclusive groups with strict social, moral and physical guidelines for members.

The researchers suggested several possible reasons for the declining health conditions reported by former members.

Strict groups typically require members to abstain from unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol and tobacco use. These groups also create both formal and informal support structures to promote positive health, according to Scheitle. The social bonds of belonging to the group might be another factor for better health.

"The social solidarity and social support could have psychological benefits," Scheitle said. "That could then lead to certain health benefits."

Religious beliefs may also promote better health by providing hope and encouraging positive thinking.

Besides losing connection to these health benefits, exiting a religious group may increase stressful situations.

"You could lose your friends or your family becomes upset when you leave, leading to psychological stress and negative health outcomes," said Scheitle.

The study does not necessarily mean that leaving a group causes poor health, Scheitle said. Poor health actually could prompt a member to leave the group. Strict sectarian groups require active involvement in meetings, services and social events that hinder participation by unhealthy members. An unhealthy member may also question membership in a group that promotes the belief in an all-powerful being who has failed to heal his or her condition.

For the study, Scheitle examined a total of 30,523 cases collected from 1972 through 2006 in the General Social Surveys. Of those, more than 10,000 switched to another religion and more than 2,000 dropped out of religion completely. A total of 423 strict religious group members were studied with approximately 96 members switching to other religions and about 54 members no longer affiliated with any religion. The Opinion National Research Center has conducted this survey annually or biennially since 1972. Scheitle said drawing deeper conclusions about the health issues from leaving a strict religious group would require more exact studies. Those longitudinal studies are new in the religious field, he added.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Losing your religion may be unhealthy, research suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100922155120.htm>.
Penn State. (2010, September 23). Losing your religion may be unhealthy, research suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100922155120.htm
Penn State. "Losing your religion may be unhealthy, research suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100922155120.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Bank of America's $17 Bln Settlement

Bank of America's $17 Bln Settlement

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 21, 2014) Bank of America's settlement is by far the largest amount paid by big banks facing mortgage securities probes. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Former TSA X-Ray Scanners Easily Tricked To Miss Weapons

Former TSA X-Ray Scanners Easily Tricked To Miss Weapons

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Researchers found the scanners could be duped simply by placing a weapon off to the side of the body or encasing it under a plastic shield. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) Contains graphic content. He's only 17. But Johntrell Bowles has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, despite the odds against him. He was recently the youngest participant in a cadaver program at the Indiana University NW medical school. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Families Can Now Ask Twitter To Remove Photos Of Deceased

Families Can Now Ask Twitter To Remove Photos Of Deceased

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) In the wake of a high-profile harassment case, Twitter says family members can ask for photos of dying or dead relatives to be taken down. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins