The Association between Religious Participation and Social Isolation in Canadian Middle-and Older-aged Adults: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging
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Social isolation is a modifiable risk factor for poor health outcomes, including cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, and mental illness. Thus, researchers seek to identify exposures that are inversely associated with social isolation itself. Religious participation may be one such exposure because research has shown it to be positively associated with social support and social integration, two concepts related to decreases in social isolation. However, the association between religious participation and social isolation has not been investigated in depth. The objective of this thesis was to examine the association between religious participation and social isolation using baseline and three-year follow-up data from the Comprehensive Cohort of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). The CLSA is an ongoing prospective cohort study of community-dwelling adults who were between 45 and 85 years old at recruitment. Religious participation was measured via a single question, asking participants how often they participated in religious activities over the past 12 months (e.g., services, committees, choirs). Responses were recorded on a 5-point scale ranging from “at least once a day” to “never”, which served as the reference category in regression modeling. Social isolation was measured with an index computed by Menec et al., which tabulated the absence of social interactions, relationships, and a lack of participation in community activities, as well as included retirement status and marital status. Social isolation index scores ranged from 0 to 5 and were dichotomized into “socially isolated” or “not socially isolated”. Multiple logistic regression was used for the analysis. Follow-up social isolation index scores were regressed onto baseline religious participation responses while controlling for baseline social isolation, sociodemographic variables, health variables, and functional social support. The fully adjusted model was stratified by age groups and sex separately. The analytical sample comprised 22,139 participants. Approximately 50% of participants participated in religious activities at least once a year. At baseline, 7% of participants were socially isolated, and 6% were socially isolated at follow-up. Regression models indicated small and inverse associations between religious participation and social isolation over three years; however, none of the results were statistically significant (α = 0.05), thereby suggesting the possibility of positive associations. The results did not identify any effect modification by age groups and sex. Most CLSA participants were not socially isolated, which contributed to the non-significant and small associations between religious participation and social isolation. Longer follow-ups of the CLSA sample and a larger proportion of socially isolated individuals are needed to assess this association further.
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Kirsten Ming (2022). The Association between Religious Participation and Social Isolation in Canadian Middle-and Older-aged Adults: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/18377