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Aging, Religion, and Health

In: Explorations in the Economics of Aging

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  • Angus Deaton

Abstract

Durkheim’s famous study of suicide is a precursor of a large contemporary literature that investigates the links between religion and health. The topic is particularly germane for the health of women and of the elderly, who are much more likely to be religious. In this paper, I use data from the Gallup World Poll to study the within and between country relationships between religiosity, age, and gender, as well as the effects of religiosity on a range of health measures and health-related behaviors. The main contribution of the current study comes from the coverage and richness of the data, which allow me to use nationally representative samples to study the correlates of religion within and between more than 140 countries using more than 300,000 observations. It is almost universally true that the elderly and women are more religious, and I find evidence in favor of a genuine aging effect, not simply a cohort effect associated with secularization. As in previous studies, it is not clear why women are so much more religious than men. In most countries, religious people report better health; they say they have more energy, that their health is better, and that they experience less pain. Their social lives and personal behaviors are also healthier; they are more likely to be married, to have supportive friends, they are more likely to report being treated with respect, they have greater confidence in the healthcare and medical system and they are less likely to smoke. But these effects do not all hold in all countries, and they tend to be stronger for men than for women.

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This chapter was published in:

  • David A. Wise, 2011. "Explorations in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise09-2, July.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 11944.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11944

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    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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    1. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2002. "People's Opium? Religion and Economic Attitudes," NBER Working Papers 9237, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Tomes, Nigel, 1985. "Religion and the Earnings Function," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 245-50, May.
    3. Azzi, Corry & Ehrenberg, Ronald G, 1975. "Household Allocation of Time and Church Attendance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(1), pages 27-56, February.
    4. repec:pri:cheawb:deaton_income_health_and_wellbeing_around_the_world_evidence_%20from_gallup_world_poll_jep_spring2008 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Rachel M. McCleary & Robert J. Barro, 2006. "Religion and Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 49-72, Spring.
    6. Angus Deaton, 2008. "Income, Health, and Well-Being around the World: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 53-72, Spring.
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    Cited by:
    1. Kumar, Santosh & Calvo, Rocio & Avendano, Mauricio & Sivaramakrishnan, Kavita & Berkman, Lisa F., 2012. "Social support, volunteering and health around the world: Cross-national evidence from 139 countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 74(5), pages 696-706.

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