This project aims to test important aspects of religion and spirituality (R/S) as they: 1) naturally change within-individuals over time and in response to life events; 2) predict key health outcomes; and 3) relate to potential intervening biobehavioral and psychological pathways among a national sample of American adults (Midlife in the United States Study) over 20 years. First, the study will assess the composition of R/S through psychometric analysis of important R/S variables (e.g., attendance, importance, coping strategies, decision-making, private religious practices, daily spiritual experiences) and how R/S may change both in terms of composition and degree over time, particularly in light of the occurrence of challenging life events (e.g., loss of close other, change in health status). Second, prospective associations between R/S with comprehensive health assessments, including intervening biobehavioral and psychological pathways, will be assessed. In this regard, the study addresses key limitations in the current knowledge regarding R/S and health. Notably, it uses a multidimensional framework of R/S, involves lengthy longitudinal data from a representative mid-life sample, includes assessment of factors likely to partially explain relations between R/S and health outcomes, and includes morbidity and mortality data along with comprehensive health assessments of pre-clinical risk (i.e., biomarkers). This project is needed to clarify the contexts, populations, and pathways through which R/S relates to diverse health outcomes. Results will be presented at conferences, within scholarly journals, through public media, and at public events to academic, clinical, and lay audiences (via lab website). As such it addresses Big Questions pertaining to the dynamic evolution of R/S through the mid-life years and how R/S predicts health outcomes via intervening variables.
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