Discussion Board

Read “Religious Involvement and Adult Mortality in the United States” by Hummer, et al., 2004, located in the Reading & Study folder for this module/week. Discuss the following points in your thread. Review the Discussion Board Instructions before posting your thread.

  • What do the authors’ say? Summarize the findings of this review article as they pertain to religious attendance and mortality.
  • What do you say? Describe the proximal and distal influences that might explain decreased mortality with increased religious activity?
  • What do you say? Do the findings hold equally true for public vs. private religious activity? Suggest reasons to explain why this may or may not be true.
  • What does God say? Offer biblical insight that may be applicable to the relationship between spirituality and health or longevity.


Hyun Dong Chung

DB 4

The article aims to find the relationship between religious involvement and mortality rates. Religious involvement was described as the frequency of service attendance by an individual. The conclusion was that attending services at least once a week showed higher life expectancies in individuals. Two subgroups of religious individuals: Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists were found to have extremely high life expectancies than compared to other denominations.1 Individuals who reported attending service at least once a month had 31% to 35% decreased risk of death. Another study in North Carolina showed those with once a week or more attendance had 46% less risk of death.1

There are many protective factors of health for religious affiliations. Religion plays an important role in being a place for social support. Having a place for people to seek assistance and have support from other members are distal influences. Religious teachings also promote more positive behaviors that are enforced through doctrine. Religious communities shape cultural norms of individuals through specified religious teachings, reinforced messages from religious leaders, and social interactions with other members. The proximal influences are factors like the individual attending services and being an active participant in their religion. Having a safe and supportive religious experience can motivate an individual to continue with those behaviors. For example, individuals who attend religious services more and/or belong to religious affiliations often are less likely to smoke or be heavy users of alcohol and drugs than those who attend less or not at all.1

There seems to be different factors when it comes to individuals who practiced religiously. The health of an individual at baseline contributed more to their life expectancy. Interestingly, private religiosity did not affect the mortality of those who were not healthy at baseline.1 Those who struggled with religious beliefs had lower life expectancies than those not struggling. The main difference between privately religious and publicly religious seems to be the level of social interactions. Those attending services had the social support of the church and the members and opportunities for interaction. More frequent attendances could account for reinforced behaviors and religious ideologies for the individual. Being more social opens opportunities for others to be supportive of one’s life. Individuals can miss opportunities for resources, education, and other supports if they do not attend services. Sometimes it is easy to maintain a behavior knowing someone is watching and being isolated removes that reinforcement. Positive reinforcement can have long-lasting effects.

Health is defined as physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. One cannot exist without the other and God tries to teach us how to behave in ways that promote good health. It makes sense that people who are more religiously active are healthier than those who are not. The church is like having an extended family with everyone looking out for each other’s wellbeing. Like an oasis in the desert, one can come to be rejuvenated and find rest. As members of one body, if one part is damaged the church should work to heal that part. Romans 12:5 says, “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”. Life is hard alone, with others to help us when we need it can have great benefits to our health. Another applicable verse is the one stated in this course: Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. Sometimes we are blinded by our false sense of realities and it is necessary to have someone to be truly honest and push us to be better. Like having someone to give us a little kick every now and then to keep us on track. Making sure we’re taking care of ourselves and to let us know when we are faltering.


  1. Hummer RA, Ellison CG, Rogers RG, Moulton BE, Romero RR. Religious Involvement and Adult Mortality in the United States: Review and Perspective. Southern Medical Journal. 2004;97(12):1223-1230. doi: 10.1097/01.smj.0000146547.03382.94.

Second reply:

Hanna Burnett

DB #4 – spirituality and mortality

In their article ‘Religious involvement and adult mortality in the United States: review and perspective’1 Hummer et al. make a point that openly religious practice provides a protection against mortality in the United States.

While there appears to be evidence that regular religious practice protects against mortality throughout subgroups of races and denominations, the biggest gains have been noted in Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists and Jewish males. They do point to some regional variations as it relates to denominational concentrations throughout the country. There is a correlation between the frequency of religious attendance and the mortality protection; the more frequent attendance, the increased advantage. There was also a stronger correlation between these two in blacks, females, and younger adults. The perceived higher effects on women can be skewed due to their higher participation in religious activities.

Most people who attend church place value on what the Bible teaches about life and godly living. So some of the proximal influences that might explain this correlation are found in the personal beliefs and adherence to God’s Word.Families and close friends have proximal influence on person’s behavior2 so surrounding one self with likeminded people will increase these health benefits. This is compounded by the larger faith community as people are supported in their struggles and celebrated in their successes.

Being part of a faith community expands ones support network. There is help for mundane activities, there is words of encouragement for low-points and there is a place to feel needed in helping others. All of these things have been linked to better mental and physical help as well as to greater well-being.3 More specifically Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists have very specific instructions for healthy living (family, service of others) and avoidance of all harmful agents (premarital sex, drugs, alcohol, smoking, excessive eating etc). The larger community therefore places distal influences in the way of cultural and societal expectations. To belong, one must adhere. An other distal influencing factor could be that people who search for God and look for support in a faith community are healthier to begin with. They are aware that there is a purpose in life beyond looking for self-centered fulfillment so they look at life from a different perspective; what might be a tragedy for one, is an opportunity for an other one.4 I found in interesting, that as ones education level increases, the benefits are less pronounced as compared to those reaped by less educated and poorer people.1 This could be either God’s grace to even the field a little bit or self reliance on the part of more educated ones (and therefore reduced awareness of God’s presence and blessings).

According to the article1 there was a marked difference in the amount of effect private religious activity affected mortality rates. Private religiosity is difficulty to quantify and qualitative. It appears that while there is some benefit, the lack of social integration between others with same belief, and the lack of support in times of trouble have a large effect on how much private religiosity protects mortality. We as humans are created to be in social interaction with others and with God. Lack of either will have a negative effect on our health.

‘My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you’.5

I don’t think it’s any surprise that people with Biblical outlook have better health than those with not. If we believe God created us it would only make sense that He knows what is best for us. So following His commands will bring healing of both body and mind. Nowhere in the Bible does God promise that our days are without trouble just because we believe in Him, but he does promise that no matter the circumstances, He ‘will not leave you or forsake you’6 and that His peace ‘which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’7. Both of these promises bring about blessed reassurance that certainly would have an effect on reducing one’s stress levels and therefore prohibiting many ailments from taking hold.8


1. Hummer RA, Ellison CG, Rogers RG, Moulton BE, Romero RR. Religious involvement and adult mortality in the United States: review and perspective. South med J. 2004; 97:12. https://go-gale-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA127069493&it=r&asid=500caaab1a2a70a0fb4c678ac61b3c39. Accessed September 8, 2019.

2.DiClemente RJ, Salazar LF, Crosby RA. Health behavior theory for public health. 2nd ed. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2019.

3. Hether HJ, Murphy ST, Valente TW. It’s better to given than to receive: the role of social support, priest, and participations on health-related social networking sites. J Health Comm. 2014; 19(12): 1424-1439. Doi: 10.1080/10810730.2014.894596

4. Entwistle DN, Moroney SK, Aten J. Integrative reflections on disasters, suffering, and the practice of spiritual and emotional care. J Psychol Theol. 2018; 46(1): 67-81. Doi: 10.1177/0091647117750658

5. Proverbs 3:1-2. The Holy Bible. English Standard Version.

6. Deuteronomy 31:6. The Holy Bible. ESV.

7. Philippians 4:7. The Holy Bible. EVS.

8. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: a review. EXCLI J. 2017; 16: 1057-1072. Doi: 10.17179/excli2017-480

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