Whose Moral Community? Religiosity, Secularity, and Self-rated Health across Communal Religious Contexts

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Scholars have long theorized that religious contexts provide health-promoting social integration and regulation. A growing body of literature has documented associations between individual religiosity and health as well as macro–micro linkages between religious contexts, religious participation, and individual health. Using unique data on individuals and county contexts in the United States, this study offers new insight by using multilevel analysis to examine meso–micro relationships between religion and health. We assess whether and how the relationship between individual religiosity and health depends on communal religious contexts. In highly religious contexts, religious individuals are less likely to have poor health, while nonreligious individuals are markedly more likely to have poor health. In less religious contexts, religious and nonreligious individuals report similar levels of health. Consequently, the health gap between religious and nonreligious individuals is largest in religiously devout contexts, primarily due to the negative effects on nonreligious individuals’ health in religious contexts.