Background: Research suggests a protective effect of religious service attendance on various health outcomes. However, most research has been done in religious societies, raising the question of whether these associations are also prominent in secular cultures. Here we examine mortality and hospitalisations by religious service attendance among men and women in a secular society.

Methods: We performed a cohort study including 2987 Danes aged 40+ interviewed in SHARE from 2004-2007, whom we followed up in the Danish registries until 2018. We used Cox regressions and negative binomial regressions to examine associations, including interactions with sex and adjusting for age, wave, socioeconomic factors, lifestyle factors, body mass index, and history of diseases.

Results: Overall, 5.0% of men and 6.6% of women reported that they took part in a religious organisation within the last month. Among 848 deaths, we found lower overall mortality for people who attended religious services (hazard ratio (HR) 0.70; 95% CI 0.50-0.99). There was evidence for association among women (HR 0.56; 95% CI 0.35-0.89), but not among men (HR 0.95; 95% CI 0.59-1.53). In contrast, regarding hospital admissions (n = 12,010), we found lower hospitalisation rates among men who attended religious services (incidence rate ratio (IRR) 0.67; 95% CI 0.45-0.98), whereas no association was found among women (IRR 0.95; 95% CI 0.70-1.29). Sensitivity analyses with e-values were moderately robust.

Conclusions: Our results contribute to the limited literature on possible health benefits of religious service attendance in secular societies, demonstrating lower mortality among women and fewer hospitalisations among men.
TidsskriftEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 17. jan. 2023

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by Demography of Sex Differences in Health and Survival, grant number P01 AG031719 (LJA).

Funding Information:
This paper uses data from SHARE Waves 1 and 2 (DOIs: https://doi.org/10.6103/SHARE.w1.600 , https://doi.org/10.6103/SHARE.w2.600 ); see Börsch-Supan et al. for methodological details []. The European Commission has funded the SHARE data collection, DG RTD through FP5 (QLK6-CT-2001-00360), FP6 (SHARE-I3: RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE: CIT5-CT-2005-028857, SHARELIFE: CIT4-CT-2006-028812), FP7 (SHARE-PREP: GA N°211909, SHARE-LEAP: GA N°227822, SHARE M4: GA N°261982, DASISH: GA N°283646) and Horizon 2020 (SHARE-DEV3: GA N°676536, SHARE-COHESION: GA N°870628, SERISS: GA N°654221, SSHOC: GA N°823782, SHARE-COVID19: GA N°101015924) and by DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion through VS 2015/0195, VS 2016/0135, VS 2018/0285, VS 2019/0332, and VS 2020/0313. Furthermore, additional funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research, the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01_AG09740-13S2, P01_AG005842, P01_AG08291, P30_AG12815, R21_AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG_BSR06-11, OGHA_04-064, HHSN271201300071C, RAG052527A) and from various national funding sources is gratefully acknowledged (see www.share-project.org ).


  • Religious service attendance
  • Mortality
  • Hospitalisation
  • Denmark