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The impact of religion on men's blood pressure


Most clinical studies examining the relation between religion and blood pressure status have focused on church attendance, finding lower pressures among frequent attenders. The present study examines the effect on blood pressure status of a religious meaning variable, importance of religion, both by itself and together with frequency of church attendance. The relation between blood pressure, self-perceived importance of religion, and frequency of church attendance was examined among a rural sample of 407 white men free from hypertension or cardiovascular disease. The data confirmed an interaction between the effects of both religious variables on blood pressure status, with importance of religion having an even greater association with lower pressures than church attendance. Diastolic blood pressures of persons with high church attendance and high religious importance were significantly lower than those in the low attendance, low importance group. These differences persisted after adjusting the analyses for age, socioeconomic status, smoking, and weight-height ratio (Quetelet Index). The difference in mean diastolic pressures based on response to the religious importance variable alone was statistically and clinically significant, particularly among men aged 55 and over (6 mm) and among smokers (5 mm). These findings suggest that both religious attitudes and involvement may interact favorably in their effects on cardiovascular hemodynamics.

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Additional information

Funding for this study was provided by the Department of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, Duke University Medical Center; and the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

The authors thank Dan Blazer for his advice, assistance, and encouragement. They are also grateful to Dana Anne Mlekush for her help with manuscript preparation and her thoughtful input to this project.

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Larson, D.B., Koenig, H.G., Kaplan, B.H. et al. The impact of religion on men's blood pressure. J Relig Health 28, 265–278 (1989).

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  • Church Attendance
  • Importance Variable
  • Religious Variable
  • Meaning Variable
  • Rural Sample