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There is controversy among the public and academia as to whether religious/spiritual belief or behaviour (RSBB) influences any aspects of health, positively or negatively. Many studies are cross-sectional and therefore cannot assess causality, and a major large longitudinal study has long been needed to answer the question. We will use the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) which has followed parents and their offspring for 28-29 years, with information on changes over time including their RSBB and health. A previous grant from JTF for Phase I has ensured that the participants have answered questions about their current RSBB in 2020.

This research programme will address a number of major questions including whether any aspect of the RSBB of parents influences their own mental or physical health or that of their offspring, either by preventing or moderating ill health. In parallel we will determine the associations between the RSBB of the offspring themselves on their own health. The results will be used to inform the public of any advantages (or disadvantages) of RSBB to health.
Information on the parents and offspring will be combined with relevant new data to be collected in this project. Statistical analyses will pay attention to identification of confounders, moderators and mediators, as well as to sex differences, and attempt to determine biological mechanisms such as inflammation as well as genetic and epigenetic associations. Especial attention will be paid to determining whether individuals with RSBB are more resilient to stress, adversity and illness than those without RSBB.

The study benefits by being multidisciplinary covering a variety of fields involved with different research questions, analyses and interpretation of results. The research programme will provide robust evidence to the Big Question as to whether and how different aspects of RSBB influence a wide range of health outcomes.