Lower mortality rates for men 50-plus who attend religious services, study suggests

Faith-based communities have long provided members with life enhancing benefits. Beyond offering messages of hope, churches and other spiritual institutions offer members many support services that enrich lives and strengthen family bonds.

For men of color, faith-based organizations become increasingly important as they approach their senior years. Whether they’re members of a church, mosque, synagogue or other center of worship, Black men are discovering life affirming — and life extending — rewards of belonging to a community of worship.

A new study led by the University of Houston’s Marino Bruce suggests that regularly attending religious services may lower mortality rates for Black men in their 50s and older. These findings were recently published in journal PLOS One, in the article “Religious Service Attendance and Mortality Among Older Black Men.”

Using data from the National Health and National Examination Survey (NHANES), Bruce and co-authors observed trends suggesting that mortality risks decreased for Black men in their 50s and older who attended services at places of worship on a weekly basis.

Bruce, director of UH Population Health’s Collaboratories and an associate dean for research in the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine, said that spiritual institutions are stress-free zones for Black men. Places of worship are often viewed within communities of color as sanctuaries where Black males feel safe and free of judgement or suspicion.

“Black men have been oppressed, commodified, surveilled and criminalized like no other group in U.S. history and they often experience disproportionately high levels of social and psychological stress from structural racism, institutional discrimination and unfair treatment from early childhood through late adulthood,” Bruce and collaborators reported in the article.

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