Posts Tagged ‘leaving church group’

Effect on Health of Leaving a Strict Religious Group

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010


Researchers reporting in the current issue of the Journal of health and Social Behavior looked at the effect on health of individuals leaving their religious group. They looked at a total of 30,523 cases collected between 1972 and 2006 in the General Social Survey. In this group, over 10,000 moved to another religious group and over 2,000 dropped out of religion completely. In the sample, there were 423 members in strict religious groups and 96 changed to another group and 54 left all religions.

They found that 40% of those in the strict religious groups reported being in excellent health but only 25% of those who switched to another group reported being in excellent health. In addition, only 20% of those from the strict religious group who dropped out reported being in excellent health. For the strict religious group, the difference between the excellent health reported by those who switched and did not switch was statistically significant. They also found that people raised and remaining in strict religious groups more often reported being in better health than those affiliated with other religious groups. Those groups considered to be strict were religious groups with strict social, moral and physical guidelines for members such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Researchers believe the reasons for the declining health of those leaving strict religious groups may be that there are requirements to abstain from unhealthy behavior, such as alcohol and tobacco use, and both formal and informal structures to promote positive health and for social networking. The also think religious beliefs may offer hope and encouragement and thereby improve health. The researchers warn that leaving a strict religious group may not cause poor health because poor health could actually be a causal factor in leaving the religious group. More research is needed.