The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Impact of Religiosity On Mental Health Outcomes of African American Caregivers

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 5:30 PM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon B, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Jeronda T. Burley, PhD, Assistant Professor, Coppin State College, Baltimore, MD
Background and Purpose: The elderly population in the United States will increase to over 88 million by 2050. The increasing numbers of Black elders will likely remain home, with family members providing the bulk of home care. Caring for a loved one is often anticipated and expected within the African American community, despite the well documented negative impact on the caregiver’s mental health. African Americans are already at greater risk for numerous health concerns, making it highly likely that the additional strains associated with elder care, coupled with other life stressors, may lead to increased vulnerability for mental health problems among African American caregivers. For decades, religion has been found to be a viable coping mechanism for stressors common to the Black community. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to investigate how differences in organizational and personal manifestations of religious involvement impact mental health among African American caregivers and how these variations can be utilized by social workers to facilitate faith-based or faith-placed services to African American caregivers with mental health stressors. 


Methods: The current study represents a secondary data analysis of an existing data set collected from a community-based, observational study conducted within a metropolitan area. The original research utilized a cross-sectional survey design involving mixed-methodology to collect quantitative and qualitative data.  Only the quantitative data were utilized for the current analysis (n = 262). The original study used a purposive, nonprobability sampling plan to recruit potential study participants based on their experience with caregiving of elders. The focus in the current study was on African American caregivers of elders or persons who were 50 years of age or older. The independent variable was a composite variable comprised of two measures, organizational religiosity and personal religiosity, which permitted the formation of four groups based on combinations of high and low levels of religious involvement. The dependent variables included: 1) caregiving stress, 2) social support, 3) physical health, and 4) depression. One-way ANOVA and Discriminant Function Analysis were utilized to test the hypotheses. 


Results: Bivariate results yielded a statistically significant difference in depression scores among the four groups, but did not find significant differences on the other three variables. Similarly, statistically significant findings from the DFA noted that depression scores alone delineated the four groups and produced relatively high correct classification rates among participants in the two groups with either high or low levels of both organizational and personal religiosity.  Correct classification rates were low for groups with mixed religious involvement.  Results suggest that a combination of involvement in organizational religiosity and personal religiosity can positively impact the mental health of African American caregivers.

Conclusion and Implications: This research will aid social workers and faith community in developing the most appropriate services for addressing mental health needs among religiously-involved African American caregivers.  Further, this research can stimulate thinking on ways that social workers can collaborate with religious organizations in order to build new and strengthen existing partnerships with Black churches and other African American organizations within the faith-based community.