Theses Doctoral

Religious Affiliation and Gender: Differences in the Association Between Religiousness and Psychological Distress

McGowan, Joseph Connor

This study explored how the relationship between religiousness and psychological distress varies by religious affiliation (Christian or Jewish) and by gender. Analyses were conducted on data collected during interviews with 143 community dwelling older adults employing measures with acceptable psychometric properties. Independent variables included organizational and intrinsic religiosity. Resources including physical health, social support, and personal efficacy were included as control variables. The dependent variables were symptoms of depression and anxiety. Supplemental analysis examined clinically significant depression and anxiety. Results of bivariate correlational analyses revealed significant relationships among gender, education, physical health, social support, personal efficacy, depression, and anxiety. Hierarchical regression analyses were then conducted in which the independent and control variables were entered in three steps: (1) demographics (gender, religious affiliation, education), (2) resources (physical health, social support, personal efficacy), and (3) religiosity and interaction terms. Christians were found to be more intrinsically religious than Jews but not more organizationally religious. Jews displayed a higher risk for clinical anxiety than Christians and women displayed a higher rate of depression and anxiety symptoms and higher risk for clinical depression and anxiety than did men. Contrary to predictions, higher levels of organizational religiosity were associated with a higher rate of anxiety symptoms. Religious affiliation and religiousness interacted in association with depression. Higher organizational religiosity was associated with depressive symptoms and clinical depression to a greater extent for Jews than for Christians. In addition, gender and religiousness interacted in association with anxiety. Lower organizational religiosity was associated with anxiety symptoms to greater extent for women than for men. On the whole, Christians displayed less depression and anxiety at higher levels of religiousness than did Jews, underscoring the complex relationships among religion, religiousness, and mental health in late life. This study also provides evidence that women in late life without religious resources may be more vulnerable to mental illness than their male counterparts. However, no reliable relationship has of yet been established among gender, religiousness, and mental health in later life.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Clinical Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Midlarsky, Elizabeth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 17, 2012