Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The relationship of religious involvement with the health status and health behaviors of Latino immigrants
by Shapiro, Ephraim, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2010, 201; 3400629
Abstract (Summary)

Introduction. A large body of evidence suggests that religiosity is associated with better health. There is a paucity of research, however, on the relationship between religious involvement, typically measured by church attendance, with the health and health behaviors of Latino immigrants in the United States. Especially needed are theoretically-driven studies of nationally-representative samples of Latino immigrant populations. To fill this gap in the literature, this study draws from theoretical concepts in the field of sociology (for both social and religious factors) to examine whether religious involvement is associated with health status and health behaviors among Latino immigrants.

Aims. This study sought to (1) examine the relationship between religious involvement, assessed in this study as church attendance, and current overall health as measured by health status; (2) examine the relationship between religious involvement and health behaviors; (3) determine whether health behaviors mediate the relationship, if any, between religious involvement and health status; and (4) examine whether immigrant and religious characteristics moderate the relationship, if any, between religious involvement and health status and between religious involvement and health behaviors.

Methods. This study utilized a secondary data analysis of the New Immigrant Survey (NIS), a public use data set. The study focused on Christian immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. A multivariate analysis was performed using measures of religion as well as extensive immigrant variables and other demographic variables. Outcome measures included health status, current level of and change in smoking, binge drinking, physical activity and obesity.

Results. Over 1200 adult Christian immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador participated in the NIS, representing a wide range of health, religious, immigrant and demographic profiles. An association was found between level of religious involvement and better health status and three of four health behaviors studied: less smoking, less binge drinking, and greater physical activity. Health behaviors mediated (but only to a very small degree) the relationship between church attendance and health status. Country of birth moderated the relationships between religious involvement and two outcomes: health status and smoking.

Conclusion. A relationship exists between religious involvement and health status and some health behaviors. Opportunities exist to leverage widespread church-going by Latino immigrants by creating interventions to reduce the burden of chronic disease. Efforts to target the needs of immigrant populations in faith communities and take their varying characteristics into account may be important strategies to potentially counteract the observation that Latino immigrant health declines with longer residency in the United States.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Abraido-Lanza, Ana
Commitee:
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-B 71/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Religion, Public health, Hispanic American studies
Keywords: Church attendance, Health behaviors, Immigrants, Latino, Religious involvement
Publication Number: 3400629
ISBN: 9781109673159
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