Religious attendance reduces cognitive decline among older women with high levels of depressive symptoms
Corsentino EA, Collins N, Sachs-Ericsson N, Blazer DG.
Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA.
J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2009 Dec;64(12):1283-9.
BACKGROUND: There is growing evidence that regular attendance at religious functions is associated with less cognitive decline (CD). However, little research has investigated factors that may moderate the religious attendance-CD relationship. The present study examined the effects of gender and depressive symptoms on the relationship between religious attendance and CD.
METHODS: Data were drawn from waves 1 and 2 of the Duke Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly, which were 3 years apart. Participants consisted of a sample of community-dwelling older adults aged 65 years and older (N = 2,938). Linear regression analyses were conducted controlling for important demographic-, socioeconomic-, and health-related variables. Cognitive functioning was assessed at both waves to examine change in errors over time.
RESULTS: Greater religious attendance was related to less CD. In addition, there was a three-way interaction between religious attendance, gender, and depressive symptoms in predicting CD. Among women with higher levels of depressive symptoms, those who less frequently attended religious services experienced greater CD than those who more frequently attended religious services. The interaction between attendance and depressive symptoms in men did not reach significance.
CONCLUSIONS: Religious attendance may offer mental stimulation that helps to maintain cognitive functioning in later life, particularly among older depressed women. Given the possible benefits religious attendance may have on cognitive functioning, it may be appropriate in certain instances for clinicians to recommend that clients reengage in religious activities they may have given up as a result of their depression.