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Y Chen and TJ VanderWeele
Abstract
This study prospectively examined the associations between religious involvement in adolescence (including religious service attendance and prayer or meditation) and a wide array of psychosocial well-being, mental health, health behaviors, physical health and character strengths outcomes in young adulthood. Longitudinal data from the Growing Up Today Study (Ns ranged from 5,681 to 7,458, depending on outcome; mean baseline age was 14.74 years) with 8-14 year follow-up (1999-2010/2013/2007 questionnaire wave) were analyzed using generalized estimating equations. Bonferroni correction was used to correct for multiple testing. All models controlled for sociodemographic characteristics, maternal health and prior values of the outcome variables wherever data were available. At least weekly versus never attendance of religious services was associated with greater life satisfaction and positive affect, a number of character strengths, lower probability of marijuana use and early sexual initiation, and fewer lifetime sexual partners. Analyses on prayer or meditation yielded similar results. While decisions about religion are not shaped principally by health, for adolescents who already hold religious beliefs, encouraging service attendance and private practices may be meaningful avenues of development and support, possibly leading to better health and well-being.
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