Religion and preventive service use: do congregational support and religious beliefs explain the relationship between attendance and utilization?

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Abstract

Religious individuals are more likely to engage in healthy practices, including using preventive services; however, the underlying mechanisms have not been adequately explored. To begin addressing this, the current study examines the association between religious attendance, four aspects of congregational support, two health-related religious beliefs, and the use of preventive services (cholesterol screening, flu shot, and colonoscopy) among a national sample of Presbyterian adults (n = 1,076). The findings show that two aspects of congregational support are relevant to these types of behavioral health. First, church-based health activities are significantly related to the use of cholesterol screenings and flu shots (OR = 1.13, P < .05; OR = 1.10, P < .05, respectively). Second, discussing health-related issues with fellow church members is also significantly associated with reporting a cholesterol screening (OR = 1.15, P < .05), as well as moderately predictive of colonoscopy use (OR = 1.10, P < .10). Neither of the religious beliefs related to health, such as the God locus of health control scale or beliefs about the sanctity of the body, are related to preventive service use in this population. Although attendance is predictive of service use in unadjusted models, the association appears to be explained by age rather than by the congregational or belief variables. These findings contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the various ways in which religion might impact health behaviors and may also help to shape and refine interventions designed to improve individual well-being.

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