Religion and the survival of 1010 hospitalized veterans

Harold G. Koenig, David B. Larson, Judith C. Hays, Michael E. McCullough, Linda K. George, Patricia S. Branch, Keith G. Meader, Maragatha Kuchibhatla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the effects of religious affiliation and religious coping on survival of acutely-hospitalized medically-ill male veterans following discharge. Sample and Methods: Between 1987 and 1989, comprehensive psychosocial and physical-health evaluations were performed on a consecutive sample of 1010 patients ages 20-39 and 65-102 years admitted to the general medicine and neurology services of the Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Religious affiliation and religious coping (the degree to which a patient relied on his religious faith for comfort and strength) were among the variables assessed. Subjects or surviving family members were contacted by telephone in 1996-97 to determine vital status; dates of death were confirmed by the Veterans Administration's Beneficiary Identification and Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS), death certificate, or the National Death Index. Cox proportional-hazards regression was used to model the effects of religious variables on time to death, controlling for demographic, social, psychiatric, and physical-health covariates. Results: Follow-up was obtained on all 1010 patients. During the observation period, 673 patients died. While a higher proportion of conservative Protestants than members of other religious groups died during this time (70.5% vs. 64.3%, p = .04), the association disappeared once covariates were controlled. Religious coping was unrelated to survival in both bivariate and multivariate analyses (hazard ratio 1.00, 95% CI 0.99-1.01). Conclusions: Neither religious affiliation nor dependence on religion as a coping behavior predicted survival in this sample of medically-ill male veterans. Several reasons for the absence of an effect are explored, notably the fact that the mortality force exerted by age, medical diagnosis, and severity of physical-health problems overwhelmed the weaker effects of psychosocial variables.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-30
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Religion and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Religious studies


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