Is White Evangelical Antistructural Theology Related to Poor Health Outcomes?

Early View Original Scholarship
Population Health
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Policy Points:

  • White evangelical theology has an “antistructural” component.
  • Counties with a high percentage of White evangelicals have higher mortality rates and more persons with fair/poor health. The potential influence of antistructural components in evangelical theology on decision making and resource allocation and, ultimately, the length and quality of life of community members presents a point of intervention for religious leaders and policymakers to improve population health.

Context: Structural factors are important determinants of health. Because antistructuralism has been identified as a tenet of White evangelical theology, we explored if there is an association of the percentage of White evangelicals in a US county with two county health outcomes: premature mortality and percentage of fair/poor health.

Methods: Regression analysis was performed with data from 2022 County Health Rankings and the American Value Atlas from the Public Religion Research Institute.

Findings: Every percent of evangelicals in a county is associated with 4.01 more premature deaths per 100,000 population and 0.13% fair/poor health. After controlling for income, education, political ideology, and county school funding adequacy (a proxy for antistructuralism), the associations remain positive and significant.

Conclusions: We hope these findings could inform dialogue and critical analysis among individuals of evangelical faith, particularly fundamental and Pentecostal subsets, regarding a belief system that is inclusive of individual dimensions and health-promoting structural policies like school funding, Medicaid expansion, and antipoverty programs. These findings also demonstrate the importance of considering cultural factors like religion and political ideology in population health outcomes research.

Kindig DA, Ariffin YM, Olson-Williams H. Is White Evangelical Antistructural Theology Related to Poor Health Outcomes? Milbank Q. 2024;102(2):0119.