Boylan and Masters receive John Templeton Foundation grant to study religion, spirituality, and health

May 24, 2021
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University of Colorado Denver’s Jennifer Boylan, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences, and Kevin Masters, PhD, professor of psychology, received a $230K grant from the John Templeton Foundation to explore our understanding of religion and spirituality and health.

Boylan and Masters will use secondary data from the Midlife in the United States study to test important aspects of religion and spirituality as they change within individuals over time and in response to life events. They will also see how religion and spirituality may predict key health outcomes, and potential intervening biobehavioral and psychological pathways.

Photo of Professor Jennifer Boylan
Dr. Jennifer Boylan
Photo of Professor Kevin Masters
Dr. Kevin Masters

“There’s rich, epidemiological literature about how attending church leads to better health outcomes and longer lives,” said Boylan. “We’re interested in what it is about religion—beyond whether a person attends church or not. We want to understand daily spiritual experiences, private religious practices, and how we use religion and spirituality to cope with stress and make decisions. How in touch are you with spiritual teachings and inclinations?”

Researchers will use a study of adults across a wide age-range (25 to 74 years old) with whom researchers followed up three times, ten years apart. They will look into how religion changes for each person, like after a divorce, retirement, or health challenges.

“The active ingredient may not be just sitting in church,” said Boylan. “It’s more about our identity, having sources of comfort and social support, or a guiding framework to make decisions. These measures are the data, and we’re going to see how they are related to health and well-being.”

The John Templeton Foundation supports research into the deepest and most perplexing questions facing humankind, providing grants to leading scholars and thinkers around the world since 1987.