Objectives: Aging is associated with deterioration in health and well-being, but previous research suggests that this can be attenuated by maintaining group memberships and the valued social identities associated with them. In this regard, religious identification may be especially beneficial in helping individuals withstand the challenges of aging, partly because religious identity serves as a basis for a wider social network of other group memberships. This paper aims to examine relationships between religion (identification and group membership) and well-being among older adults. The contribution of having and maintaining multiple group memberships in mediating these relationships is assessed, and also compared to patterns associated with other group memberships (social and exercise). Method: Study 1 (N = 42) surveyed older adults living in residential care homes in Canada, who completed measures of religious identity, other group memberships, and depression. Study 2 (N = 7021) longitudinally assessed older adults in the UK on similar measures, but with the addition of perceived physical health. Results: In Study 1, religious identification was associated with fewer depressive symptoms, and membership in multiple groups mediated that relationship. However, no relationships between social or exercise groups and mental health were evident. Study 2 replicated these patterns, but additionally, maintaining multiple group memberships over time partially mediated the relationship between religious group membership and physical health. Conclusion: Together these findings suggest that religious social networks are an especially valuable source of social capital among older adults, supporting well-being directly and by promoting additional group memberships (including those that are non-religious).

Additional Metadata
Keywords aging, health, religion, social identity, well-being
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2013.799120
Journal Aging and Mental Health
Ysseldyk, R, Haslam, S.A. (S. Alexander), & Haslam, C. (Catherine). (2013). Abide with me: Religious group identification among older adults promotes health and well-being by maintaining multiple group memberships. Aging and Mental Health, 17(7), 869–879. doi:10.1080/13607863.2013.799120