The Relationship Between Religiousness and Health Among Sexual Minorities: A Meta-Analysis

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Psychological Bulletin






American Psychological Association

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Meta-analyses suggest that religiousness/spirituality (R/S) is consistently and positively associated with health (average r = .15); however, the strength and direction of this relationship is much less clear among sexual minorities, and many sexual minorities experience tension related to R/S. To address this, we present results from the first meta-analysis of the relationship between R/S and health among sexual minorities. Using 279 effect sizes nested within 73 studies, multilevel meta-analyses suggest a small but positive overall relationship between R/S and health among sexual minorities (r = .05), with a substantial amount of residual heterogeneity. Moderator analyses clarify that this relationship is particularly positive when R/S is conceptualized as spirituality (r = .14) or as religious cognition (e.g., belief; r = .10). The relationship between R/S and health disappears or becomes negative when participants are sampled from sexual minority venues (e.g., bars/clubs; r = .01). Minority stress, structural stigma, and causal pathways theories provide some structure to understand results; however, none of these theories is able to explain results fully. We synthesize these theories to provide an initial theoretical explanation: the degree to which R/S promotes or harms sexual minorities’ health depends on (a) where the individual is in their sexual identity development/integration; (b) what their current R/S beliefs, practices, and motivations are; and (c) how well their environmental circumstances support their sexual and/or religious identities.