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Religious Influences on Preventive Health Care Use in a Nationally Representative Sample of Middle-Age Women

The current study examines the relationship between religious attendance, religious salience, and denomination and three types of female preventive services in a sample of middle-age women (N = 4253). Findings indicate that women who attend religious services more frequently use more mammograms, Pap smears, and self-breast exams. In addition, women belonging to Mainline Protestant or Jewish denominations use certain preventive services more than Evangelical Protestants. Finally, women with higher levels of religious salience are more likely to conduct self-breast exams. These findings add important information to the public health literature concerning factors that influence preventive service use. They also add to the growing field of religion and health research where preventive health care use is emerging as a possible mechanism linking religion to a wide variety of physical health outcomes.

 Three measures of religion are included in the current study: religious service attendance, religious denomination, and religious salience.

 After detailed investigation, researchers stated that, religion has been a particularly neglected social factor in health research and findings such as those shown here may compel health care workers and health researchers to pay more attention to religious involvement as a potentially significant correlate of health care utilization. While the use of general health care services is mainly determined by an individual’s need for such services, utilization levels for preventive health care are more susceptible to other factors. This essential difference, along with empirical evidence from studies such as this, challenge researchers and practitioners in the health care field to further consider how religion may affect the utilization of preventive services. These results also add to the growing field of religion and health research. Preventive health care use is emerging as a possible mechanism linking religious involvement and beliefs to a wide variety of health outcomes. Although still untested, the inclusion of preventive service utilization in studies investigating the influence of religion on various aspects of morbidity and mortality will be the next step in investigating the role of this potentially illuminating piece of the puzzle.


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