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Can Religion Help Prevent Obesity? Religious Messages and the Prevalence of Being Overweight or Obese Among Korean Women in California

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This research examines the influence of messages from religious leaders and congregants on whether Korean women are overweight or obese. Data were drawn from telephone interviews with a probability sample (N = 591) of women of Korean descent living in California. Overweight or obese prevalence was measured using World Health Organization standards for Asians (BMI > 23). Respondents reported the frequency of messages discouraging “excessive eating” or encouraging “exercise” from religious leaders and congregants during a typical month. When conditioned on leaders’ messages, the frequency of congregants’ messages was associated with a significantly lower probability of being overweight or obese, although messages from either in the absence of the other were unassociated with being overweight or obese. At least for Korean women, religion may help prevent obesity via religious-based social mechanisms.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Health, Behavior & SocietyJohn Hopkins Bloomberg School ofPublic Health 2: Department of Political ScienceSan Diego State University 3: Center for Behavioral Epidemiology& Community HealthSan Diego State University 4: School of Human EcologyCatholic University of Korea 5: Department of Food and NutritionMyongji University 6: Department of Food and NutritionSeoul National University

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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