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Congregational Support Networks, Health Beliefs, and Annual Medical Exams: Findings from a Nationwide Sample of Presbyterians

Publication Abstract

Ellison, C.G., J. Lee, M.R. Benjamins, Neal Krause, D.N. Ryan, and J.P. Marcum. 2008. "Congregational Support Networks, Health Beliefs, and Annual Medical Exams: Findings from a Nationwide Sample of Presbyterians." Review of Religious Research, 50(2): 176-193.

Explanations for associations between religious involvement and preventive health care utilization remain poorly understood. Using 2007 data from a nationwide sample of members of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., we develop and test several hypotheses concerning religious beliefs, congregational practices, and informal church-based networks in shaping the likelihood of obtaining annual medical checkups. Members of churches with higher levels of formal health activities and those who discuss health matters within informal member networks are more likely to have checkups. At least part of this association reflects the role of doctor recommendations from church members. Surprisingly, beliefs in the sanctity of the body are inversely associated with the likelihood of obtaining checkups. Several dispositional factors (planfulness, conformity, social desirability) are considered and dismissed as explanations for the observed patterns.

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