Religiosity and mental wellbeing among members of majority and minority religions: findings from Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study
11 May 2021
It is unclear if links between religiosity and mental health are found in contexts outside the US or are causal. We examined differences in mental wellbeing and associations between mental wellbeing and religiosity among the religiously unaffiliated, white and non-white Christians, Muslims of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other ethnicities, and other minority ethnoreligious groups. We used four waves of Understanding Society, a UK longitudinal household panel (2009–2013, N=50922). We adjusted for potential confounders (including socioeconomic factors and personality) and for household fixed effects to account for household level unobserved confounding factors. Compared with those with no religious affiliation, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims and members of other minority religions had worse wellbeing (as measured by Shortened Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS) and General Health Questionnaire (GHQ)). Higher subjective importance of religion was associated with lower wellbeing according to GHQ; associations were not found with SWEMWBS. More frequent religious service attendance was associated with higher wellbeing; effect sizes were larger for those with religious affiliations. These associations were only partially attenuated by adjustment for potential confounding factors including household fixed effects. Religious service attendance and/or its secular alternatives may have a role in improving population-wide mental wellbeing.
American Journal of Epidemiology
Online Early; Open Access; This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.