European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 32, Issue 10, pp 921–929 | Cite as

Religiousness and health in Europe

  • Linda Juel Ahrenfeldt
  • Sören Möller
  • Karen Andersen-Ranberg
  • Astrid Roll Vitved
  • Rune Lindahl-Jacobsen
  • Niels Christian Hvidt


Recent research suggests that epidemiological forces in religion and health can have opposed effects. Using longitudinal data of people aged 50+ included in wave 1 (2004–2005) of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), and followed up through waves 2 (2006–2007), 4 (2011) and 5 (2013), we examined two forms of religious internalization and their association with health. Multivariate logistic regressions were used to examine all associations. Taking part in a religious organization was associated with lower odds of GALI (global activity limitation index) (OR = 0.86, 95% CI 0.75, 0.98) and depressive symptoms 0.80 (95% CI 0.69, 0.93), whereas being religiously educated lowered odds of poor self-rated health (SRH) 0.81 (95% CI 0.70, 0.93) and long-term health problems 0.84 (95% CI 0.74, 0.95). The more religious had lower odds of limitations with activities of daily living 0.76 (95% CI 0.58, 0.99) and depressive symptoms 0.77 (95% CI 0.64, 0.92) than other respondents, and compared to people who only prayed and did not have organizational involvement, they had lower odds of poor SRH 0.71 (95% CI 0.52, 0.97) and depressive symptoms 0.66 (95% CI 0.50, 0.87). Conversely, people who only prayed had higher odds of depressive symptoms than non-religious people 1.46 (95% CI 1.15, 1.86). Our findings suggest two types of religiousness: 1. Restful religiousness (praying, taking part in a religious organization and being religiously educated), which is associated with good health, and 2. Crisis religiousness (praying without other religious activities), which is associated with poor health.


Religiousness Activity limitations Self-rated health Depression Europe 



This article uses data from SHARE waves 1 (2004–2005), 2 (2006–2007), 4 (2011) and 5 (2013). The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th framework programme (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360). Additional funding came from the US National Institute on Ageing (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG-4553-01 and OGHA 04-064). Further support from the European Commission through the 6th framework programme (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, and COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857) is gratefully acknowledged. For methodological details, see Börsch-Supan et al. (2013).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 23 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda Juel Ahrenfeldt
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sören Möller
    • 3
  • Karen Andersen-Ranberg
    • 2
  • Astrid Roll Vitved
    • 2
  • Rune Lindahl-Jacobsen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Niels Christian Hvidt
    • 4
  1. 1.Max-Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of AgingUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark
  2. 2.Unit of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and BiodemographyUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark
  3. 3.OPEN – Odense Patient data Explorative Network, Odense University Hospital and Department of Clinical ResearchUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark
  4. 4.Research Unit of General Practice, Department of Public HealthUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark

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