The percentage of people who left a strict religious group and reported they were in excellent health was about half that of people who stayed in the group, said Christopher Scheitle, senior research assistant, in sociology.
About 40 percent of members of strict religious groups reported they were in excellent health, according to the study. However, only 25 percent of members in those groups who switched to another religion reported they were in excellent health.
The researchers suggested several possible reasons for the declining health conditions reported by former members.
Strict groups typically require members to abstain from unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol and tobacco use. These groups also create both formal and informal support structures to promote positive health, according to Scheitle. The social bonds of belonging to the group might be another factor for better health.
The researchers reported their findings in the current issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
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