Researches are calling on churches to develop faith-based health programs after a new study finds Black men who go to church regularly are nearly twice as likely to be obese than those who never attend services.
The Duke University study was conducted using data from the National Survey of American Life to investigate the correlation between the faith traditions and health outcomes for more than 4,300 African American and Afro-Caribbean Christians.
“Historically, black churches have been a source of spiritual and social support, but greater religious engagement must also support good health behaviors,” lead author of the study, Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards wrote. “Both men and women who are active members of their churches are being pulled in a lot of directions outside of their faith community, which can make self-care a lower priority than what is warranted. We want them to make faith and health priorities in their lives, rather than faith or health.”
Her findings also suggested that the development of obesity in black men highly engaged in church life could be influenced by their relationships with people. Research showed obesity can be transferred among individuals after the age of 32.
“Developing obesity was seen among siblings and spouses if one person became obese. Among friends, if one became obese, the other had a 57% increased chance of also becoming obese. Male same-gender friendships showed an increased chance of becoming obese when one friend enters that weight group,” Bentley-Edwards noted.
The study further pointed to gendered roles within the church social context, saying the high-obesity rate among black men may be due to the leadership roles they are involved in.