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Christine L. Williams, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Spring 2010

SOC 396R • Religion, Health and Mortality

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
46670 M
6:00 PM-9:00 PM
BUR 214

Course Description

Over the past two decades, there has been a sharp growth of public interest and academic research regarding the links between religion, health, and mortality. The goal of this course is to introduce students to key substantive findings, theoretical arguments, and current controversies in this broad area. Although most readings and discussions will focus on the US, where much of this work has been centered, non-US cases and comparative materials will also be included at various points. It may also be possible to alter or expand coverage of various issues depending on student interest.

During the semester, we will explore the complex relationships between religious factors and:
(a) mental health (e.g., subjective well-being, psychological distress, depression and other affective disorders)
(b) physical health (e.g., self-rated health, functional (dis)ability, specific disorders such as hypertension, and recovery from health problems); and
(c) mortality (all-cause and cause-specific mortality risk, aggregate mortality rates).

In addition, we will examine possible religious influences on a range of psychosocial factors that can influence health:
(a) health behavviors and lifestyles
(b) social ties and social support
(c) self-perception and other psychological resources
(d) coping styles and practice; and others.

Moreover, we will also give attention to organizational factors --e.g., clergy, religious ministries, and other programs, public opinion and medical resistance to closer linkages between faith and health-- and their implications for the emerging religion-health field. We will consider possible problematic effects of certain facets of religion. And we will discuss the complexity and consistency of religion-health linkages across populations and subgroups (e.g., variations by race/ethnicity, gender, age/life cycle stage, SES) and cultural contexts.

In addition to these substantive topics, the seminar will offer an introduction to various foci of controversy and misunderstanding, including:
(a) attempts to distinguish between religiousness and spirituality
(b) strategies for conceptualizing and measuring various health-relevant religious domains
(c) disagreements over evidence of causality vs. spuriousness
(d) the relevance of population-based vs. clinical studies
(e) differences over how, and whether, research findings in this area should influence medical education and health care delivery; and other controversial issues.


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