Infant mortality rates higher in areas with more Christian fundamentalists, study finds

May 28, 2018, Portland State University
Infant mortality rates higher in areas with more Christian fundamentalists, study finds
Credit: Portland State University

The odds of an infant dying before their first birthday are higher in counties with greater proportions of conservative Protestants, especially fundamentalists, than in counties with more mainline Protestants and Catholics, according to a new Portland State University study.

The study, published online in May in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, supports the idea that the more insular, anti-institutional culture of fundamentalists can lead to poorer health outcomes.

Ginny Garcia-Alexander, a sociology professor in PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the study's lead author, examined the influence of religion on postneonatal infant , or the number of deaths from four weeks through the first year, using data from 1990 through 2010.

Garcia-Alexander said a leading cause of in the first 28 days is birth defects, which can be heavily influenced by advances in medical knowledge and technology. By contrast, deaths in the next 11 months of life are more often linked to external factors such as poverty, lack of insurance, and religion.

Garcia-Alexander said the findings mirror trends seen in adult mortality rates, where areas with more mainline Protestants and Catholics had better health outcomes than areas with more conservative Protestants.

The study's findings build on previous research that says that Catholicism and mainline Protestantism are civically minded, externally oriented faiths that emphasize community-level care. For example, church-affiliated hospitals and social-service providers such as Catholic Charities can bolster the health infrastructure of local communities.

"Both of those have more of a commitment to worldly pursuits," Garcia-Alexander said. "There is a concerted effort to make inroads with the community that they live in and to do good for the community, both for members and nonmembers alike."

On the flip side, conservative Protestants, including fundamentalists and Pentecostals, tend to be more insular and are more likely to reject science and health-related resources.

"This is continuing to show us that there are things that we can do in our communities to improve ," Garcia-Alexander said. "And to the extent that people who belong to religious organizations are aware of that, knowing that you are a communicator of health information, that can be a really valuable way to harness the power of the group and the community to communicate helpful practices for and ."

The study suggests that efforts could be made to implement prenatal and neonatal promotion programs within congregations. Even in conservative congregations where scientific knowledge might be viewed with some suspicion, the study said the programs can be promoted as a means of caring for mothers, the unborn and newborns.

Explore further: Research suggests suicide rates higher in Protestant areas than Catholic

More information: Ginny E. Garcia et al. Religion and Infant Mortality in the United States: A Community-Level Investigation of Denominational Variations in Postneonatal Deaths, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2018). DOI: 10.1111/jssr.12487

Related Stories

Research suggests suicide rates higher in Protestant areas than Catholic

March 13, 2012
Research from the University of Warwick suggests suicide rates are much higher in protestant areas than catholic areas.

Recommended for you

Accurate measurements of sodium intake confirm relationship with mortality

June 21, 2018
Eating foods high in salt is known to contribute to high blood pressure, but does that linear relationship extend to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death? Recent cohort studies have contested that relationship, ...

Fans of yoga therapy have yet to win over doctors

June 21, 2018
Yoga practitioners often tout the unique health benefits of the ancient discipline—from relieving stress and pain to improving vascular health—but most doctors remain sceptical in the absence of hard proof.

Fruit and vegetables linked to changes in skin colour, new research finds

June 21, 2018
Skin colour in young Caucasian men is strongly linked to high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption, new research by Curtin University has found.

What a pain: The iPad neck plagues women more

June 20, 2018
Is your iPad being a literal pain in the neck?

Medicaid work requirements and health savings accounts may impact people's coverage

June 20, 2018
Current experimental approaches in Medicaid programs—including requirements to pay premiums, contribute to health savings accounts, or to work—may lead to unintended consequences for patient coverage and access, such ...

Introduction of alcohol found to adversely impact fertility rates in hunter-gatherer community

June 19, 2018
Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a research director with the French National Centre for Scientific Research has found that the introduction of alcohol to a Baka pygmy hunter-gatherer society caused fertility rates to fall. In his ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.