Study Suggests Unhealthy African American Churchgoers Are In Denial

October 5, 2015

I gave up on scientific studies a long time ago, because it seems they all either have redundant findings, they're not performed on enough people to come to any real conclusion, or they're performed on rats, with results that may never become reality in human life. But, what's really going on in the African American church community?

One study we often hear is how African American's have the highest rate of obesity. This study is so redundant, it's become annoying. I ask myself every time I see the headline, how often are they going to throw this in our faces? We get it already. According to research, most African American's are fat. What's funny, it's even been said the church is to blame.

While I don't agree with the church being the cause for obesity, a recent study published in the journal Ethnicity and Disease, suggests many churchgoers with health issues don't believe they're unhealthy. Now that caught my attention. Why would anybody who is overweight, with high blood pressure, and other chronic illness, feel as though they are perfectly healthy? Really?

The study analyzed data from over 1,200 participants in the Faith, Activity and Nutrition program, a 15-month program that promoted healthy behaviors such as physical exercise and healthy eating choices in 74 African Methodist Episcopal churches in South Carolina.

“A lot of people had hypertension and obesity, and they really didn't engage in healthy behaviors, but they still rated their own health as good to excellent,” said Meghan Baruth, Ph.D., the study's author.

One explanation might be the benefits of church attendance, study authors speculated. “Our follow-up analysis found that those who had higher church attendance also had higher self-rated health,” said Baruth. Having larger social networks and support from regular church attendance may negate the influence of poor health and unhealthy behaviors, the authors said.

Winston Wong, M.D., director of Disparities Improvement and Quality Initiatives at Kaiser Permanente, who is not associated with the study, suggested that this unexpected finding might also reflect what's considered “healthy” in the African American community. “For example, high blood pressure may be regarded as a 'normal' part of the aging process. Since it commonly has very few symptoms, individuals may perceive their health as relatively good, even though their blood pressure may be untreated or insufficiently controlled,” he said.

Since the norm for “average” health might include many people with serious chronic conditions, study participants who rated their health as “poor” may have an especially pronounced risk of poor health outcomes, he explained.

The only conclusion I can come up with is the way many churchgoers think, just may have a lot to say about the leaders who are preaching the word. (source:

In other news, a pastor in Africa ordered his female congregants to come to church without underwear so that God may enter them more easily. Imagine that.