Life-Course Religious Attendance and Cognitive Functioning in Later Life

Terrence D. Hill, Dawn C. Carr, Amy M. Burdette, Benjamin Dowd-Arrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Although several studies suggest that religious attendance is associated with better cognitive functioning in later life, researchers have generally failed to connect with any established life-course perspectives or theories of cognitive aging. Building on previous work, we examine the effects of life-course religious attendance on a range of cognitive functioning outcomes. We employ data from the religious life histories module of the 2016 Health and Retirement Study, a subsample of 516 adults aged 65 and older. Our key findings demonstrate that older adults who attended religious services for more of their life course tend to exhibit poorer working memory and mental status and better self-rated memory than older adults who attended less often. We contribute to previous research by reconceptualizing religious attendance as a cumulative life-course exposure, exploring the effects of religious attendance net of secular social engagement, and examining a wider range of cognitive functioning outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-225
Number of pages9
JournalResearch on Aging
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • cognitive health
  • memory
  • mental status
  • religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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