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Linear growth curve modeling was used to compare rates of change in functional status between three groups of older adults: Individuals holding voluntary lay leadership positions in a church, regular church attenders who were not leaders, and those not regularly attending church. Functional status was tracked longitudinally over a 4-year period in a national sample of 1,152 Black and White older adults whose religious backgrounds were either Christian or unaffiliated. Leaders had significantly slower trajectories of increase in both the number of physical impairments and the severity of those impairments. Although regular church attenders who were not leaders had lower mean levels of impairment on both measures, compared with those not regularly attending church, the two groups of non-leaders did not differ from one another in their rates of impairment increase. Leadership roles may contribute to longer maintenance of physical ability in late life, and opportunities for voluntary leadership may help account for some of the health benefits of religious participation.
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- Voluntary leadership roles in religious groups and rates of change in functional status during older adulthood
R. David Hayward
- Springer US