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The Education-Contingent Association Between Religiosity and Health: The Differential Effects of Self-Esteem and the Sense of Mastery


Correspondence should be addressed to Scott Schieman, Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto, ON M5S 2J4, Canada. E-mail:


Using data from a representative sample of adults in Toronto, Canada, I examine the education-contingent association between religiosity (subjective religiosity and religious attendance) and four health-related outcomes: depression, anxiety, alcohol use, and self-rated health. I also test the extent that two personal resources—the sense of mastery and self-esteem—contribute to those associations. Findings indicate that subjective religiosity and attendance are generally associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, alcohol use, and poor health. Moreover, although not entirely uniform, subjective religiosity and attendance tend to be associated more negatively with these outcomes among individuals with fewer years of education. While the sense of mastery suppresses the education-contingent influence of religiosity on distress outcomes, self-esteem generally contributes to those patterns. On balance, the suppression effects of mastery are offset by the explanatory effects of self-esteem. These findings elaborate on the well-established association between religiosity and health by illustrating education-contingent effects and potential counterbalancing roles of personal resources in these processes.