Countries around the world have experienced substantial gains in life expectancy at birth and old age in the last decades but whether these gains represent quality and healthy years is still in question. External factors such as better diagnosis and treatment undoubtedly contribute to healthy aging but there is growing evidence that factors internal to the individual, including religiosity and spirituality, are equally influential. Nevertheless, research on religiosity, spirituality and health tends to focus either on morbidity or mortality; rarely on both combined, and this research has seldom examined findings across diverse populations.
Our research project uses a health expectancy approach to address whether spirituality and religiosity are associated with longer, healthier life and whether these relationships hold across populations and a spectrum of health domains. We draw on a variety of state-of-the-art demographic statistical methods with the core of the project relying on combining mortality and morbidity to estimate health expectancy outcomes. We use data from surveys covering hundreds of thousands of individuals in more than 80 countries that span a variety of cultures and religious practices. Our studies will test hypotheses such as: 1) Individuals who have greater levels of religious and spiritual commitment live longer lives and a greater percentage of years in healthy states. 2) Associations are consistent and robust across countries and cultures regardless of how religiosity, spirituality and health are measured.