IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Religion and health: Is there an association, is it valid, and is it causal?


  • Levin, Jeffrey S.


This paper reviews evidence for a relationship between religion and health. Hundreds of epidemiologic studies have reported statistically significant, salutary effects of religious indicators on morbidity and mortality. However, this does not necessarily imply that religion influences health; three questions must first be answered: "Is there an association?", "Is it valid?", and, "Is it causal?" Evidence presented in this paper suggests that the answers to these respective questions are "yes," "probably," and "maybe." In answering these questions, several issues are addressed. First, key reviews and studies are discussed. Second, the problems of chance, bias, and confounding are examined. Third, alternative explanations for observed associations between religion and health are described. Fourth, these issues are carefully explored in the context of Hill's well-known features of a causal relationship. Despite the inconclusiveness of empirical evidence and the controversial and epistemologically complex nature of religion as an epidemiologic construct, this area is worthy of additional investigation. Further research can help to clarify these provocative findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Levin, Jeffrey S., 1994. "Religion and health: Is there an association, is it valid, and is it causal?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 38(11), pages 1475-1482, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:38:y:1994:i:11:p:1475-1482

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Halkos, George, 1993. "Economic incentives for optimal sulphur abatement in Europe," MPRA Paper 33705, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Ger Klaassen & David Pearce, 1995. "Introduction," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(2), pages 85-93, March.
    3. Michael Grossman, 1972. "The Demand for Health: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros72-1, January.
    4. Tietenberg, T H, 1990. "Economic Instruments for Environmental Regulation," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 17-33, Spring.
    5. Halkos, George E., 1993. "Sulphur abatement policy: Implications of cost differentials," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(10), pages 1035-1043, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Jelena Pokimica & Isaac Addai & Baffour Takyi, 2012. "Religion and Subjective Well-Being in Ghana," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 106(1), pages 61-79, March.
    2. Berggren, Niclas & Ljunge, Martin, 2017. "Does Religion Make You Sick? Evidence of a Negative Relationship between Religious Background and Health," Working Paper Series 1173, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    3. Bryukhanov, Maksym & Fedotenkov, Igor, 2017. "Religiosity and life satisfaction in Russia: Evidence from the Russian data," MPRA Paper 82750, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Rick Sawatzky & Pamela Ratner & Lyren Chiu, 2005. "A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between Spirituality and Quality of Life," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 72(2), pages 153-188, June.
    5. Hong, Ding, 2012. "Health and Christianity: Controlling for Omitted Variable Bias by Using the Data of Twins and Siblings," MPRA Paper 41334, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Guiso, Luigi & Sapienza, Paola & Zingales, Luigi, 2003. "People's opium? Religion and economic attitudes," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 225-282, January.
    7. Lehrer, Evelyn L., 2005. "Religious Affiliation and Participation as Determinants of Women's Educational Attainment and Wages," IZA Discussion Papers 1725, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Jonathan Gruber, 2005. "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?," NBER Working Papers 11377, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Esa Mangeloja, 2004. "Economic Growth and Religious Production Efficiency," DEGIT Conference Papers c009_040, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
    10. Kan, Kamhon & Tsai, Wei-Der, 2004. "Obesity and risk knowledge," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 907-934, September.
    11. Sawchuk, Lawrence A. & Tripp, Lianne & Melnychenko, Ulianna, 2013. "The Jewish Advantage and Household Security: Life Expectancy among 19th Century Sephardim of Gibraltar," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 360-370.
    12. Samuel Stroope & Scott Draper & Andrew Whitehead, 2013. "Images of a Loving God and Sense of Meaning in Life," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 111(1), pages 25-44, March.
    13. Borgonovi, Francesca, 2008. "Doing well by doing good. The relationship between formal volunteering and self-reported health and happiness," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(11), pages 2321-2334, June.
    14. Schenk, Niels & van Poppel, Frans, 2011. "Social class, social mobility and mortality in the Netherlands, 1850-2004," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 401-417, July.
    15. Olga Popova, 2016. "Suffer for the Faith? Parental Religiosity and Children’s Health," Working Papers 356, Leibniz Institut für Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung (Institute for East and Southeast European Studies).
    16. Lehrer, Evelyn L., 2005. "Young Women's Religious Affiliation and Participation as Determinants of High School Completion," IZA Discussion Papers 1818, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Hollander, Gideon & Kahana, Nava & Lecker, Tikva, 2003. "Religious and secular human capital: an economic model," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 489-498, November.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:38:y:1994:i:11:p:1475-1482. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.