This study focuses on religion because it is one of the most important institutions within the Hispanic culture.
Research has shown that religion is associated with a wide range of health behaviors among adults of all ages. Although there is strong support for religion’s influence on behaviors such as drinking and smoking, less is known about the possible relationship between religion and the use of preventive health services. This relationship may be particularly important in Mexico, a country with high levels of religiousness and low levels of preventive service utilization. The current study uses a nationally representative sample of middle-aged and older adults in Mexico (n=9,890) to test the association between three facets of religion and three preventive services aimed at detecting chronic conditions or underlying risk factors. The findings show that religious salience is significantly related to the use of blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, even after controlling for a variety of social, demographic, and health-related factors. In addition, attending religious services and participating in religious activities are both positively associated with blood pressure and diabetes screening. This type of research adds to our knowledge of the determinants of preventive service utilization, as well as to the burgeoning literature on religion and health. Furthermore, because the vast majority of research in this field takes place in more developed and Westernized countries, such as the US and Western Europe, analyzing this relationship in a sample of older Mexicans is critical for providing the field with a more comparative orientation.
The current study finds that more religious individuals report greater utilization of certain preventive services. The mechanisms behind these relationships, as well as the implications for public health, are currently unknown. More research is needed to better understand the impact of this social factor on the health behaviors of older adults in Mexico.