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Religiosity is negatively associated with later-life intelligence, but not with age-related cognitive decline

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http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0160289614000464
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-17
JournalIntelligence
Volume46
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2014

Abstract

A well-replicated finding in the psychological literature is the negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence. However, several studies also conclude that one form of religiosity, church attendance, is protective against later-life cognitive decline. No effects of religious belief per se on cognitive decline have been found, potentially due to the restricted measures of belief used in previous studies. Here, we examined the associations between religiosity, intelligence, and cognitive change in a cohort of individuals (initial n = 550) with high-quality measures of religious belief taken at age 83 and multiple cognitive measures taken in childhood and at four waves between age 79 and 90. We found that religious belief, but not attendance, was negatively related to intelligence. The effect size was smaller than in previous studies of younger participants. Longitudinal analyses showed no effect of either religious belief or attendance on cognitive change either from childhood to old age, or across the ninth decade of life. We discuss differences between our cohort and those in previous studies – including in age and location – that may have led to our non-replication of the association between religious attendance and cognitive decline.

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