Faith and health self-management of rural older adults

Thomas A. Arcury, Sara A. Quandt, Juliana McDonald, Ronny A. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


This analysis uses in-depth interview data collected from 145 African American, European American and Native American men and women aged 70 and older who reside in two rural North Carolina counties to understand the role of religious faith and prayer in the health self-management of these older adults. The analysis addresses three specific questions: how do these older adults use religion to help them manage their health; are there ethnic and gender differences in the use of religion; and are differences in health status related to differences in the use of religion? The integral role of religion in the lives of these older rural adults is an overarching theme present in the interview texts. Six major themes link religion and health self-management: (1) prayer and faith in health self-management, (2) reading the Bible, (3) church services, (4) mental and spiritual health, (5) stories of physical healing, and (6) ambivalence. Faith and religious activities provide an anchor in the lives of these older adults. There is little variation in the use of religion for health self-management by gender, ethnicity or health status. These results suggest that the strength of religion in rural culture may limit the effectiveness of general religiosity scales to discern the relationship of religion to health and health behavior in rural populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-74
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research reported in this paper was supported by NIH grant AG13469. An earlier version of this paper was presented as part of the symposium “Religiosity and Health among Rural Older Adults” at the 1998 Annual Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in Philadelphia, PA. The authors gratefully acknowledge the comments of Wilbert M. Gesler on an earlier version of this paper, as well as the comments of an anonymous reviewer.


  • Ethnicity
  • Health beliefs
  • Health self-management
  • Religion
  • Rural aging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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