Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Relations between Religiosity, BMI, and Health-Related Quality of Life in Young Adults: A Model Comparison Study

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Relations between Religiosity, BMI, and Health-Related Quality of Life in Young Adults: A Model Comparison Study

Article excerpt

Religiosity is generally associated with positive health outcomes in adult populations (Lee & Newberg, 2005; Oman & Thoresen, 2005; Powell, Shahabi, & Thoresen, 2003; Seeman, Dubin, & Seeman, 2003; Seybold & Hill, 2001). For example, church attendance is related to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, lower mortality rates, better blood pressure, and increased immune functioning. Despite the relation between religiosity and health, other research has shown that certain religious populations are at an increased risk for obesity-a known predictor of multiple adverse health outcomes (Koenig, 2012). Protestants have shown an increased risk for obesity, which some have attributed, at least in part, to the prominent role food plays in Protestant church life (Dodor, 2012; Feinstein, Liu, Ning, Fitchett, & Lloyd-Jones, 2010; Ferraro, 1998, Sack, 2001).

Health-related quality of life (HRQOL), which focuses on individuals' assessment of subjective perceptions of their physical and psychosocial well-being, has been increasingly acknowledged as an important health outcome measure (WHOQOL Group, 1993). Findings from both patient and university populations support a positive association between religiosity and HRQOL (Corrigan, McCorkle, Schell, & Kidder, 2003; Ferriss, 2002; Poston & Turnbull, 2004). For example, the degree to which adult patients with advanced cancer considered themselves to be religious was associated with better overall HRQOL (Vallurupalli et al., 2012). In domestic and international university students in New Zealand, Hsien-Chuan Hsu et al. (2009) found religiosity was associated with greater psychological and social quality of life.

Obesity is a risk factor for diminished HRQOL. In a meta-analysis, Ul-Haq and colleagues (2013a) found obese adults manifest diminished physical quality of life compared to normal weight adults (weighted mean difference [WMD] = -3.73; 95% confidence interval = -5.54 to -1.92)1. Adults with class III obesity demonstrated significantly lower mental quality of life than normal weight adults (WMD = -1.75; 95% confidence interval= -3.33 to -0.16). A similar pattern was observed in a separate meta-analysis conducted in youth and young adults up to age 19 (Ul-Haq, Mackay, Fenwick, & Pell, 2013b). Significantly lower physical (WMD = -11.93; 95% confidence interval= -15.13 to -8.74) and psychosocial (WMD = -9.99; 95% confidence interval= -13.98 to -6.01) quality of life were self-reported in youth and young adults who were obese. Greater deficits in health-related quality of life were observed with increasing BMI categories.

Analytic Models

There are a number of ways that scholars have posited how religious practice can influence people's reaction to stress (Nelson, 2009; Pargament, 1997). Concerning health outcomes, there are five common analytic models (Chatters, 2000; See Figure 1 for simplified versions of these models.) The suppressor model2 postulates that the presence of a stressor leads individuals to increase their religious activities (e.g., prayer, service attendance), which then functions to reduce (suppress) the deleterious effects of stress on health. In the distressdeterrent (counterbalancing) model, stress and religion have independent, opposite influences on health. In the prevention model, religion exerts both direct and indirect protective effects on health. Religious involvement benefits health indirectly by lessening the stressor. In the moderator model, the stressor interacts with religion such that the stressor's deleterious effect on health varies by degree of religious involvement (i.e., religion has a buffering effect by weakening the effect of the stressor on health). Last, there is the health effects model, which is similar to suppressor model, but the direction of the stressor's relation to religion is the opposite. With this model, the stressor prevents certain types of religious activity.

Current Study

To date, there has been limited research on the relations between religiosity, HRQOL, and BMI. …

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