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The Religion–Health Connection Among African Americans: What Is the Role of Social Capital?

Authors

  • Cheryl L. Holt,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral and Community Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
    • Correspondence to: Cheryl L. Holt, School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral and Community Health, University of Maryland, 2369 School of Public Health (Building 255), College Park, MD 20742, USA.

      E-mail: cholt14@umd.edu

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  • Eddie M. Clark,

    1. Department of Psychology, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO, USA
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  • Min Qi Wang,

    1. School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral and Community Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
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  • Beverly Rosa Williams,

    1. Department of Medicine, Division of Gerontology/Geriatrics/Palliative Care, University of Alabama at Birmingham, AL, USA
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  • Emily Schulz

    1. Arizona School of Health Sciences, Department of Occupational Therapy, A.T. Still University, AZ, USA
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ABSTRACT

Researchers have expressed growing interest in factors that may explain the relationship between religious involvement and health-related outcomes. Faith-based organizations are a significant institution in African American communities, both serving religious/spiritual needs and providing an important source of social capital. These communities often suffer a disproportionate burden of health conditions as well. The present study examined the role of social capital (social support, interconnectedness, and community participation) in the relationship between religious involvement (beliefs and behaviours) and physical and emotional functioning and depressive symptoms, among a national probability sample of African Americans (N = 803). Participants completed telephone interviews. We used structural equation modelling to test hypotheses based on the theoretical model. Results indicate that interconnectedness played a modest mediational role in the relationship between religious behaviours/participation and depressive symptoms. Interconnectedness was predictive of fewer depressive symptoms and marginally with better emotional functioning. Findings highlight the importance of trust in and commitment to one's community for health and have implications for community-based health promotion initiatives. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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