Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 62–73 | Cite as

Role of religious social support in longitudinal relationships between religiosity and health-related outcomes in African Americans

  • Cheryl L. Holt
  • David L. Roth
  • Jin Huang
  • Eddie M. Clark


This study tested a longitudinal model of religious social support as a potential mediator of the relationship between religious beliefs and behaviors, and multiple health-related outcomes (e.g., depressive symptoms, functioning, diet, alcohol use, cancer screening). A national probability sample of African Americans enrolled in the religion and health in African Americans study completed three waves of telephone interviews over a 5-year period (N = 766). Longitudinal structural equation models indicated that religious behaviors, but not beliefs, predicted the slowing of a modest overall decline in positive religious social support, while negative interactions with congregational members were stable. Positive religious support was associated with lower depressive symptoms and heavy drinking over time, while negative interaction predicted increases in depressive symptoms and decreases in emotional functioning. Positive religious support mediated the relationship between religious behaviors and depressive symptoms and heavy drinking. Findings have implications for mental health interventions in faith-based settings.


Longitudinal Religion African American Religious social support Depression Health behaviors 



The team would like to acknowledge the work of OpinionAmerica and Tina Madison who conducted participant recruitment/retention and data collection activities for the present study.


This work was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute, (#1 R01 CA 105202; #1 R01 CA154419) and a grant from the Duke University Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health, through the John Templeton Foundation (#11993).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Cheryl L. Holt, David L. Roth, Jin Huang, and Eddie M. Clark declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This study involved human data and was approved by the University of Maryland Institutional Review Board (#373528-1). It does not involve animal data or tissue. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cheryl L. Holt
    • 1
  • David L. Roth
    • 2
  • Jin Huang
    • 2
  • Eddie M. Clark
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral and Community HealthUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Center on Aging and HealthJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologySaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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