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Sun, 14.07.24

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IMAJ | volume 14

Journal 10, October 2012
pages: 595-601

Religion and Physical Health among Older Israeli Jews: Findings from the SHARE-Israel Study

    Summary

    Background: Despite decades of research on religious determinants of health, this subject has not been systematically investigated within Jewish populations, in Israel or the diaspora. The present paper is part of a series of studies using large-scale population data sources to map the impact of religiousness on the physical and mental health of Jews.
    Objectives: To identify religious predictors of physical health in a national probability sample of older Israeli Jews.

    Methods: The data derive from the Israeli sample of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), a cross-national survey program involving nearly a dozen nations. The Israeli sample comprises 1287 Jewish respondents aged 50 or over. Outcome measures include single-item assessments of self-rated health, long-term health problems and activity limitation, as well as validated measures of diagnosed chronic diseases, physical symptoms, and activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental ADL (IADL).

    Results: Recent synagogue attendance is a significant predictor of better health for six of the seven health measures, even after adjusting for age and several other covariates and mediators, including measures of health-related behavior and social support. Prayer, by contrast, is inversely associated with health according to five measures, perhaps reflecting its use as a coping mechanism for individuals with health problems.

    Conclusions: This study presents modest evidence of a salutary effect of Jewish religiousness on this population of older adults. Religiousness, in the form of synagogue participation, was seen to serve a protective function, and prayer a coping function.

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