Princeton University Library Catalog

Take Your Telomeres To Church: The Association between Religiosity and Telomere Length in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study

Tam, Janelle [Browse]
Senior thesis
Notterman, Daniel A. [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Molecular Biology [Browse]
Princeton University. Program in Global Health and Health Policy [Browse]
Class year:
Summary note:
Although religiosity has been associated with an array of positive health outcomes, little is known about the biological mechanisms underlying this relationship. Stress is a potential mechanism: religiosity may work through various social and biological mechanisms to buffer against the deleterious allostatic load stress exerts on the body. To determine the cumulative effect of religion on health, this study investigated the association between mothers’ early religious behavior, their telomere length and their children’s telomere length in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study, a sample of nearly 5000 families from large cities across the US. Because stress has been identified as a major determinant of telomere erosion throughout one's life, telomere length is a biomarker that allows for a quantitative analysis of the effect of stress and religiosity on health. The study also examined how socioeconomic status, mental health, social support and individual genetic sensitivity moderate this relationship, and found that religious attendance was significantly associated with longer TL among mothers and children, and was more strongly associated with longer TL in children from families of a higher socioeconomic status. In addition, intrinsic religiosity was more strongly associated with longer TL among mothers at higher levels of instrumental support. Overall, religiosity was associated with longer TL, and this relation was stronger in environments with lower stress. Religion is therefore a valuable and easily accessible resource for enhancing the health of disadvantaged populations.