Methods: To obtain a national sample of self-identified Muslims, a purposive, snowball sampling strategy was used to identify Islamic organizations in the US (N=22). The study design was cross-sectional. After pilot testing, surveys were administered online to members of the organizations who agreed to participate in the study. A post hoc power analysis indicated that the resulting study sample size (N=269) had sufficient power (.86) to identify significant relationships (≤ .05) given an odds ratio or effect size of 1.6. The mean age of the sample was approximately 38 years (SD =11.70), and a majority were: Sunni (86%), female (69%), married (58%), held graduate degrees (57%), born outside the US (52%), and a plurality self-identified as Middle Eastern (37%).
In addition to demographics, potential predictors measured included: alcohol and cigarette use; depression [assessed with the short form of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)], discrimination, and prayer and Mosque attendance. The dependent variable was measured with a dichotomous item (0=good to excellent health, 1=poor/fair health). To identify predictors of self-rated health, logistic regression was conducted.
Results: The results of the final regression model indicated that Muslims who were younger, married, had a graduate degree, and prayed more frequently were more likely to report higher levels of self-rated health. Conversely, respondents who reported clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms, and being singled out by law enforcement as a result of being a Muslim, were more likely to report poorer self-rated health.
In terms of effect sizes, depression and discrimination were among the strongest predictors. Muslims who reported clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms were 3.16 times more likely (95% C.I. 1.36 – 7.21), and Muslims who reported being singled out by law enforcement officials within the past 12 months were 2.95 times more likely (95% C.I. 1.20 – 7.26), to report poorer self-rated health.
Implications: The results highlight the importance screening for depression when assessing health in practice settings, particularly when working with Muslims from cultures where the psychological dimensions of health are not widely affirmed. Given the protective effect of spirituality, practitioners might explore incorporating Muslims’ spiritual strengths into clinical work. At the macro level, the link between discrimination and poorer self-rated health underscores the need for efforts to address the discrimination Muslims often experience in the US.