To examine the relationship between intrinsic religiosity and hypertension, researchers at Loma Linda University analyzed cross-sectional data on 9,581 middle-aged and older North American Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA). The mean age of the sample was 61 years; two-thirds were White; two-thirds were female; and 43% had an undergraduate or graduate degree education. One-third of the sample (35%) reported a diagnosis of hypertension. In terms of health behaviors, 56% were vegetarian, 33% were involved in a regular exercise program, and 94% did not currently use alcohol. Church attendance was “often” in 91% of participants. Intrinsic religiosity was assessed using the 3-item subscale of the Duke University Religion Index (DUREL), with response options ranging on a 7-point Likert scale from “not true” (1) to “very true”(7). Hypertension was self-reported. Researchers sought to validate this self-reported diagnosis in a subsample of 495 participants who had their blood pressure (BP) physcially measured; systolic BP was significantly higher in those who self-reported hypertension than in those who did not (p<0.0005); likewise, diastolic BP was significantly higher in those reporting hypertension compared to those who did not (p<0.0005). Perceived stress, neuroticism, depression, and spiritual meaning were examined as possible mediators. Logistic regression was used to analyze the data. Results: Level of intrinsic religiosity was inversely related to hypertension (B=-0.13, SE 0.03, OR=0.88, 95% CI 0.83-0.92, p<0.0001). Only older age, Black race, lower BMI, and eating a vegetarian diet were as strongly related to hypertension as was intrinsic religiosity. Even after controlling for perceived stress, neuroticism, depression, and spiritual meaning, the inverse relationship between hypertension and intrinsic religiosity persisted (B=-0.09, OR=0.92, p<0.01). Investigators concluded, “This finding is particularly important because it suggests that religiosity and not just lifestyle is related to lower risk of hypertension, a leading cause of death in the USA.”

Charlemagne-Badal SJ, Lee JW (2015). Intrinsic religiosity and hypertension among older North American SeventhDay Adventists. Journal of Religion and Health, pp 1-14, 2 septembre 2015.

Comment: Reported here was a robust association independent of diet and other health behaviors and only minimally mediated by perceived stress, neuroticism, depression, and spiritual meaning. In participants whose BP was actually measured, the average systolic BP of those with self-reported hypertension was only 133.8 and the average diastolic BP was only 75.3 (however, many were taking medication to control their hypertension). Although the present study is cross-sectional and does not allow causal inferences, the inverse association between religiosity and hypertension may be one reason why SDA’s (a very religious group) live on average 4 years longer than Americans in general.

Source :  CROSSROADS... Newsletter of the Center for Spirituality, Theology & Health, Volume 5 Issue 6 December 2015.