A new longitudinal study links low religiosity to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease

According to a study published in the journal Journal of Religion and HealthLow adult religiosity is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease in populations in England and the United States.

Many cross-sectional studies have found associations between Parkinson’s disease and low religiosity, religious ritual participation, and measures of self-disclosure compared to age-matched control groups. Interestingly, people with Parkinson’s disease report having spiritual beliefs. The past three decades have seen a rapid increase in the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease, and this trend is expected to continue due to the aging population worldwide.

“Given that the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease is increasing most rapidly in societies with a high proportion of non-religious people. []and sociological studies predict that religiosity will continue to decline in some parts of the world—which is important from a public health perspective to clarify the temporal relationship between low religiosity and the development of Parkinson’s disease,” the study writes. author Abidemi I. Otaiku.

This study used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) and the United States Midlife Study (MIDUS), covering the years 2010-2019 and 1995-2014, respectively. To be included in the current study, participants had to be free of Parkinson’s disease at baseline and answer questions about religion (eg, How important is religion to you? [daily] live in?; How important was religion in your home when you were growing up?) and spirituality (eg How important is spirituality in your life?).

Participants also indicated frequency of attending religious/spiritual services and engaging in prayer and meditation. Also, participants could not have missing data for sociodemographic indicators and had to have participated in at least the first follow-up after baseline data collection. 7,124 participants from ELSA and 2,672 from MIDUS were included in the analyses, for a total of 9,796 participants.

During the 10-year follow-up period, participants were asked whether they had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by a medical professional; This gave an indication of the incidence of Parkinson’s disease. Covariates measured at baseline included age, ethnicity (ie, white/non-white), marital status, education, smoking status, heavy alcohol consumption, diabetes, hypertension, mental health disorders (eg, depression, schizophrenia) included. ), cognitive impairment (eg, dementia), self-rated general health, and physical activity level.

Otaiku found that low religiosity at baseline “was associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, even when the analysis was restricted to religious participants.” Religious people who said that religion was not important in their lives were ten times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than religious people who said that religion was very important. When looking at the trend for the entire sample (ie, religious and non-religious), the author found a similar result.

In the ELSA sample, this association persisted even after excluding participants with Parkinson’s disease, as well as those who reported cognitive impairment or severe mental impairment within the baseline two years.

Participants who rated spirituality (but not religion) as very important and those who rated neither as very important had a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease compared to those who reported religion as very important. This was also the case for participants who reported a decrease in religiosity compared to those who reported no change.

A limitation noted by the author is that “the findings of this study cannot be generalized to predominantly non-Christian populations.”

Otaiku concludes: “If replicated by other researchers, these findings could be important for understanding global disease trends. [Parkinson’s disease].”

“Religiosity and the Risk of Parkinson’s Disease in England and the United States” Abidemi I. Written by Otaiku.

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