The Effect of Religious Participation on Cognitive Function in Middle- and Old-Aged Adults: A Sequential Explanatory Mixed Methods Study of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging
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Background: Preserving cognitive health is a crucial aspect of successful aging. Atypical cognitive decline is linked to the onset of dementia disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Even normal cognitive deterioration can negatively influence the health of aging populations. Religious involvement has been shown to have a positive impact on cognitive function. However, this association has not been explored in the Canadian population. Methods: This thesis aimed to investigate the association between frequency of religious participation and cognitive function among middle- and older-aged adults. The thesis included two parts forming a sequential-explanatory mixed methods study. The quantitative part of this study was conducted at the population-level and included analyses of baseline data from between 8,047 and 28,701 individuals aged between 45 and 85 years, depending on the analytical sample and regression model, who were recruited as part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). The quantitative analyses were supplemented and enhanced with a qualitative study involving members of Christian communities, including pastors and parishioners. These individuals mirrored the characteristics of CLSA participants. The intention of undertaking the qualitative component was to augment the quantitative results with pastors’ and parishioners’ interpretations and explanations of these results. Results: The quantitative analyses did not find a substantial number of statistically significant associations between frequency of religious participation and cognitive function, following adjustment for an array of demographic, health related, social, and socioeconomic covariates. Based on the qualitative findings, frequency of religious participation may not be an accurate representation of the wider construct of religious involvement. The qualitative findings suggested that religious involvement, if considered in broader terms than just the act of participation, may be associated with improved mental health, social interaction and support, and an active mind, all of which have positive impacts on cognitive function. Conclusions: Frequency of religious participation did not capture the breadth of religious involvement in the quantitative sample and, as such, few of the findings were statistically significant, and some findings contradicted our hypothesis of a positive association between religious participation and cognitive function. However, religious participation extends beyond simply attending church services. Future research needs to employ a broader range of measures of religious participation to more fully assess the association between religious involvement and cognitive function.
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Sheri Hosseini (2019). The Effect of Religious Participation on Cognitive Function in Middle- and Old-Aged Adults: A Sequential Explanatory Mixed Methods Study of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15282