Objectives: Employing twelve years of panel follow-up data (1999 to 2011) this study associates multiple dimensions of religiosity with life and disability-free life expectancy (LE/DFLE) in Taiwan, while adjusting for factors commonly implicated as mechanisms in the religiosity - health association. Much evidence on salutary effects of religion focus on attendance and life expectancy in Western societies. Our study expands the discourse in a number of ways, including looking at a broad set of components of religiosity, focusing on Taiwan, and adjusting for intervening mechanisms.
Methods: Baseline data come from the 1999 “Taiwan Longitudinal Study on Aging” (TLSA) (N=4,440; Age 53 to 98). This wave of the TLSA is unique because it incorporated an extensive series of items on religiosity. Our study examines four dimensions: affiliation, attendance, beliefs and practice. The data also contain measures of disability, repeated in panel data collected in 2003, 2007 and 2011. Mortality is monitored and linked to a national mortality database ensuring validity. LE/DFLE is estimated using a recently modified version of the Stochastic Population Analysis of Complex Events software (SPACE).
Results: Our study first assesses unadjusted LE/DFLE estimates and then, to ascertain whether any association is a function of intervening factors, adjusts estimates for often implicated mechanisms related to health behaviors, social support and psychological well-being. Preliminary results indicate strong associations with attendance, more moderate with other religiosity dimensions, and some effect of intervening factors.
Conclusion: The paper addresses unanswered questions regarding the association between religion and health. 1) Most research has taken place in the West where Judeo-Christian religions dominate. Our study expands evidence to different religious traditions, norms and ways of expressing religious conviction. 2) Little research has looked at how religiosity associates with length of healthy life. Our study suggests religion has impacts on both quality as well as quantity of life. 3) While religious attendance and health have been related, religion is a complex construct and religious activity can cover a range of experiences and principles. Our study indicates that associations across dimensions of religiosity can vary.
Key words: Disability, Religion, Taiwan