Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 1925–1937 | Cite as

Religiousness and Diseases in Europe: Findings from SHARE

  • L. J. AhrenfeldtEmail author
  • N. C. Hvidt
  • S. T. Kjøller
  • S. Möller
  • R. Lindahl-Jacobsen
Original Paper


Recent research in religiousness and health suggests that epidemiological forces can have opposed effects. Here we examine two forms of religiousness and their association with disease. We performed a cross-sectional study of 23,864 people aged 50+ included in wave 1 (2004–2005) of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe and a longitudinal study including people from wave 1, who were followed up during 11 years. Results suggested that taking part in a religious organization was associated with lower odds of heart attack (OR 0.74, 95% CI 0.60, 0.90), stroke (OR 0.68, 95% CI 0.50, 0.95), and diabetes (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.58, 0.90) and longitudinally associated with lower odds of cancer (OR 0.78, 95% CI 0.60, 1.00). Conversely, praying was longitudinally associated with higher odds of heart attack (OR 1.27, 95% CI 1.10, 1.48) and high cholesterol (OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.00, 1.26). The most religious people had lower odds of stroke, diabetes, and cancer than other respondents, and in the longitudinal model, people who only prayed had higher odds of heart attack than non-religious people. Our findings lend support to the hypothesis that restful religiousness (praying, taking part in a religious organization, and being religiously educated) was associated with lower odds of some diseases, whereas little evidence was present that crisis religiousness (praying only) was associated with higher odds of disease.


Religiousness Praying Disease Heart attack Cancer 



This paper uses data from SHARE waves 1, 2, 4, and 6 (,,,, see Borsch-Supan et al. (2013) for methodological details (Borsch-Supan et al. 2013). The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through FP5 (QLK6-CT-2001-00360), FP6 (SHARE-I3: RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE: CIT5-CT-2005-028857, SHARELIFE: CIT4-CT-2006-028812) and FP7 (SHARE-PREP: No. 211909, SHARE-LEAP: No. 227822, SHARE M4: No. 261982). Additional funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research, the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01_AG09740-13S2, P01_AG005842, P01_AG08291, P30_AG12815, R21_AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG_BSR06-11, OGHA_04-064, HHSN271201300071C) and from various national funding sources is gratefully acknowledged (see

Author Contributions

LJA contributed to the literature search, study question and design, performed data analyses, prepared the first draft of the paper, and drafted the final version; NCH contributed to the study design and to the interpretation of results; STK contributed to the literature search and to data analyses; SM contributed to data analyses and to the interpretation of results, and RLJ critically reviewed and revised the manuscript. All authors approved the final version.


There was no specific funding for this study. Linda Juel Ahrenfeldt, Stine Tving Kjøller, and Sören Möller had full access to the data, and all authors had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest in relation to the present article.

Ethical Approval

For this type of study, formal consent is not required.

Supplementary material

10943_2018_664_MOESM1_ESM.docx (21 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 21 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. J. Ahrenfeldt
    • 1
    Email author
  • N. C. Hvidt
    • 2
    • 3
  • S. T. Kjøller
    • 1
  • S. Möller
    • 4
    • 5
  • R. Lindahl-Jacobsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Unit of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Biodemography, Department of Public HealthUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark
  2. 2.Research Unit of General Practice, Department of Public HealthUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark
  3. 3.Academy of Geriatric Cancer ResearchOdense University HospitalOdenseDenmark
  4. 4.OPEN – Odense Patient Data Explorative NetworkOdense University HospitalOdenseDenmark
  5. 5.Department of Clinical ResearchUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark

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