Health Disparities in Nonreligious and Religious Older Adults in the United States: A Descriptive Epidemiology of 16 Common Chronic Conditions

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Alexandra C.H. Nowakowski ; Jason Edward Sumerau (2017)
  • Publisher: Ubiquity Press
  • Journal: Secularism and Nonreligion (issn: 2053-6712, eissn: 2053-6712)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.5334/snr.85
  • Subject: Religions. Mythology. Rationalism | BL1-2790 | Health Disparities | Older Adults | (non)religion & Health | Descriptive Epidemiology | (non)religion & Health; Descriptive Epidemiology; Chronic Conditions; Health Disparities; Older Adults | Chronic Conditions
    mesheuropmc: humanities

In this paper, we compute prevalence estimates for nonreligious and religious people in relation to 16 common chronic conditions in contemporary American society. Using survey data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, we speak to current debates concerning potential relationships between religion, nonreligion and health in older adult populations with two key findings. First, we show no consistent relationships between religion or nonreligion and chronic condition prevalence. Second, we demonstrate race, sex, and class variations within nonreligious people’s health outcomes consistent with patterns noted in previous analyses of religious populations. In conclusion, we draw out implications for future research concerning the importance of (1) using caution when interpreting correlations between religion (i.e., a privileged social location) and health; (2) developing intersectional approaches to religion, nonreligion, and health; and (3) building a diverse base of scholarship concerning nonreligion and health.
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