Is There a Crisis in Clergy Health?: Reorienting Research Using a National Sample


Are religious leaders unusually unhealthy? This question has long occupied scholars interested in the study of religious institutions, and a significant body of research has examined the causes, correlates, and effects of poor health among clergy. In this study, we aimed to: (1) outline the development of, and bias inherent to, the scholarly understanding of clergy health over the past 50 years; (2) test, using a recently collected nationally representative sample of clergy, the standing assumption that clergy are an especially unhealthy vocational group, specifically in terms of depression, obesity, and self-rated health; and (3) identify the major correlates of health among clergy using these data. Contrary to the recent tenor of scholarly research on this subject, our research revealed that clergy are not a particularly unhealthy group. We suggest potential pathways forward to ameliorate the bias inherent in the research into clergy well-being.

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion