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Abstract

Objectives

This investigation used a biomarker of sympathetic nervous system activity novel to biocultural research to test the hypothesis that engaging in religious worship activities would reduce baseline stress levels on a non-worship day among Pentecostals.

Methods

As detailed in Lynn et al. (submitted for publication), stress was measured via salivary cortisol and α-amylase among 52 Apostolic Pentecostals in New York's mid-Hudson Valley. Saliva samples were collected at four predetermined times on consecutive Sundays and Mondays to establish diurnal profiles and compare days of worship and non-worship. These data were reanalyzed using separate analyses of covariance on α-amylase and cortisol to control for individual variation in Pentecostal behavior, effects of Sunday biomarkers on Monday, and other covariates.

Results

There was a significant decrease in cortisol and an increase in α-amylase on a non-worship day compared with a service day. Models including engagement in Pentecostal worship behavior explained 62% of the change in non-service day cortisol and 73% of the change in non-service day α-amylase.

Conclusions

Engagement in Pentecostal worship may be associated with reductions in circulatory cortisol and enhancements in α-amylase activity. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.