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Religious Involvement and Telomere Length in Women Family Caregivers

Koenig, Harold G. MD*†‡; Nelson, Bruce MA§; Shaw, Sally F. PhD§; Saxena, Salil BS; Cohen, Harvey Jay MD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: January 2016 - Volume 204 - Issue 1 - p 36–42
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000443
Original Articles

Telomere length (TL) is an indicator of cellular aging associated with longevity and psychosocial stress. We examine here the relationship between religious involvement and TL in 251 stressed female family caregivers recruited into a 2-site study. Religious involvement, perceived stress, caregiver burden, depressive symptoms, and social support were measured and correlated with TL in whole blood leukocytes. Results indicated a U-shaped relationship between religiosity and TL. Those scoring in the lowest 10% on religiosity tended to have the longest telomeres (5743 bp ± 367 vs. 5595 ± 383, p = 0.069). However, among the 90% of caregivers who were at least somewhat religious, religiosity was significantly and positively related to TL after controlling for covariates (B = 1.74, SE = 0.82, p = 0.034). Whereas nonreligious caregivers have relatively long telomeres, we found a positive relationship between religiosity and TL among those who are at least somewhat religious.

*Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC; †King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; ‡Ningxia Medical University, Yinchuan, PR China; §Department of Research, Glendale Adventist Medical Center, Glendale, CA; and ∥Center for Aging and Human Development, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.

Send reprint requests to Harold G. Koenig, MD, Box 3400, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710. E-mail:

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