Religious Involvement and Cognitive Functioning at the Intersection of Race–Ethnicity and Gender Among Midlife and Older Adults

Objectives | To investigate the association between religious involvement and cognitive functioning at the intersections of race–ethnicity and gender among midlife and older adults, and to determine if psychosocial factors help explain this relationship.
Method | The sample included 14,037 adults aged 50+ from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We utilized measures from the HRS 2010 and 2012 Core interviews and Leave-Behind questionnaires and estimated our models using linear regression.
Results | Compared to individuals who frequently attended religious services, infrequent religious service attendance was related to poorer cognitive functioning. Religiosity was inversely associated with cognitive functioning at baseline, but the relationship varied by race/gender subgroup. Greater religiosity was associated with better cognitive functioning among Black women, but lower cognitive functioning among White men and women. Psychosocial factors did little to explain the inverse association between religiosity and cognitive functioning.
Discussion | Results suggest the association between religious involvement and cognitive functioning is varied and complex, and largely dependent on important social identities. The findings have important implications for investigating health-protective factors, like religious involvement, using an intersectional perspective.
This study was published in The Journals of Gerontology.