Pew Potatoes

April 13, 2011

A few weeks ago there was a report of a longitudinal study showing that young adults who attend church regularly have a 50%-above-normal chance of becoming obese by middle age. What better occasion, I thought, for me to return to the world of active bloggerdom? Well, here I am at last.

One of these days I’m going to learn to stop procrastinating.

But back to the story. I’ve found several bloggers and dead-tree columnists mentioning the report when it came out; the most common explanation suggested was all the eating done at church get-togethers. But hey, young people eat a lot even in secular contexts. I wonder what factors exactly the study controlled for – geography, race, socio-economic status?  It occurs to me that the Southern U.S. is well known for elevated rates of both religiosity and unhealthy eating habits; does this covariance tilt the sample?

And it is also well known that young adulthood is the period when church attendance is at its lowest. Was there any attempt to distinguish those who follow the common pattern of avoiding church in their twenties and taking it up again later? As the reports mention, other studies have shown that religion is good for health and longevity, and the reasons usually given for this all have to do with the social support that church life provides; perhaps the reverse applies to young people: 20-somethings who go to church may be more introverted, less socially connected, and if they were hanging out with their secular-minded friends instead they’d be burning more calories on things like sports and sex.

And yes I thought of this before I saw the cute Onion story about exercise and drunkenness…




2 Responses to “Pew Potatoes”

  1. timberwraith Says:

    I wonder if there is a higher prevalence of adults with children going to church than among the general populace? I remember seeing an article in the Star Tribune that addressed the difficulty of becoming parents and maintaining an active life with adequate amounts of exercise. There also winds up being less time to fix healthy, balanced meals from scratch in a household with children and parents who work outside of the home.

    • allogenes Says:

      That might be a factor. I rather think of the people in the survey as belonging to the minority who were church-goers before starting to raise families, but I’m not so sure… maybe they were early-parenters as well. And anyway their young-adult days were a couple of decades ago, before the median age of marriage and childbearing was quite as high as it is now…

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