|By Ph.d. clinical health psychologist, Peter La Cour
Pain Clinic, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen
Post Conference Ressources
PowerPoint – download here
Audio Presentation – listen here
Audio Q&A – listen here
CV – open here
Based on data from 1984 it was stated that church attendance and survival was positively associated also in Denmark (la Cour, Avlund & Schultz-Larsen, 2006). This has been a general finding in several studies from the USA, but also from other parts of the world. The Danish study might still be the only one from a secular region.
Methodologically church attendance had to be dichotomized in order to make the needed computerizations inlayed in the models of statistical survival analysis. The variable of church attendance was part of an interview and it had originally three possibilities for categorizing the answers: ‘‘Do you attend services at church?”: Never, rarely (i.e. onlyreligious festivals), and often (i.e. more than just religious festivals)”.
The variable distributed itself with about a third in the first group attending church “never” (35%), the biggest part in the “rare” group (47%) and few in the “often” group (18%).
These answers were dichotomized into ‘‘never’’ versus ‘‘rare+often’’, and the survival difference had statistical significance even after control for nearly everything that could be controlled for. The database was of good quality and the control variables were many and of a great range.
The odd thing was the necessary dichotomizing, because there was no significance on survival, when the dichotomizing was done on “often” versus “rare + never.”
Therefore, the results might be better interpreted as showing the negative effect of never being in a church rather than the positive effect of attending church. The positive effect showed when church attendance was as low as a couple of times a year, and it is very strange to imagine any influential health effect coming from that low attendance itself. The expected survival was about 2 years more for the church attenders, and this really raises the questions of what the explaining factors might be. There seem to be a rather large effect with a very little course or activity of church attendance and no other explaining variables.
la Cour,P., Avlund,K., & Schultz-Larsen,K. (2006). Religion and survival in a secular region. A twenty year follow-up of 734 Danish adults born in 1914. Social Science and Medicine, 62(1), 157-164.