Religious attitudes and practices of hospitalized medically ill older adults.
OBJECTIVES: To examine the prevalence of religious beliefs and practices among medically ill hospitalized older adults and relate them to social, psychological and health characteristics. METHODS AND PROCEDURES: Consecutive patients age 60 or over admitted to the general medicine cardiology and neurology services of Duke University Medical Center were evaluated for participation in a depression study. As part of the evaluation, information on religious affiliation, religious attendance, private religious activities, intrinsic religiosity and religious coping was collected. Demographic, social, psychological and physical health characteristics were also assessed. Bivariate and multivariate correlates of religious belief and activity were examined using Pearson correlation and linear regression. RESULTS: Of the 542 patients evaluated, detailed information on religious beliefs and behaviors was collected on 455 cognitively unimpaired patients. Over one-half (53.4%) of the sample reported attending religious services once per week or more often; 58.7% prayed or studied the Bible daily or more often; over 85% of patients held intrinsic religious attitudes; and over 40% spontaneously reported that their religious faith was the most important factor that enabled them to cope. Religious variables were consistently and independently related to race (Black), lower education, higher social support and greater life stressors, and religious attendance was associated with less medical illness burden. Religious attendance was also related to lower depressive symptoms, although the association weakened when other covariates were controlled. CONCLUSIONS: Religious practices, attitudes and coping behaviors are prevalent among hospitalized medically ill older adults and are related to social, psychological and physical health outcomes. Implications for clinical practice are discussed.
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