Older men with higher levels of sex hormones could be less religious

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New research indicates that the amount of testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in a man's body may influence how religious he is

The level of sex hormones such as testosterone in a man's body could influence his religiosity. A new study by Aniruddha Das of McGill University in the Springer journal Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology adds to the growing body of evidence that religiosity is influenced not only by upbringing or psychological makeup, but that physiological factors could also play a role.

Das, an associate professor of sociology, analysed data extracted from the 2005-2006 and 2010-2011 waves of the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP), which was set up to collect information from older American adults (aged 57-85 at baseline). Participants completed questionnaires in their homes in which they were asked about how often they attended religious services, and whether they had a clergy member in their core social network. Information was also gathered about participants' weight and health, while saliva and blood samples were collected and later examined.

From the analysis of over 1,000 men, Das found that men with higher levels of the sex hormones testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in their bodies had weaker religious ties.

"Religion influences a range of cultural and political patterns at the population level. Results from the current study indicate the latter may also have hormonal roots," Das says. "There is therefore a need for conceptual models that can accommodate the dynamic interplay of psychosocial and neuroendocrine factors in shaping a person's life cycle."

He believes more studies should be done to better understand how hormones, in particular, shape a person's religious patterns in later life. This is of importance, as religion has been shown to have a positive influence on how people age and ultimately experience their later years. The findings further point to biological reasons behind the personal networks and social affiliations that people form during the course of their lives.

"Without systematic exploration of these linkages, life course theory remains incomplete and potentially inaccurate," Das adds. "More research is therefore needed on the reasons why androgen levels influence a person's religious connections, and on the role that hormones play in structuring the life trajectories of older people.”

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Das, A. (2018). Are men's religious ties hormonally regulated? Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology DOI: 10.1007/s40750-018-0094-3

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