Men with higher levels of sex hormones are less likely to be religious, a new study has found.
This was particularly present in older men with high levels of testosterone, said the researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Previous studies have shown that older people tend to be more religious and that being part of a religious community tends to have a positive effect on how people age.
However, this is the first study to show that there could be biological mechanisms at play behind the religious institutions people are a part of.
Men with higher levels of sex hormones, such as testosterone, are less likely to be religious, a new study has found
The research team studied data from the 2005-2006 and 2010-2011 waves of the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project.
The data collection project, conducted by the University of Chicago, examines how the physical health of older Americans is impacted by social and intimate relationships.
For this study, the team looked at data of more than 1,000 men between the ages of 57 and 85, which included information about their weights and heights as well as saliva and blood samples.
They also looked at the questionnaires the participants had answered, which asked questions such as how often they attended religious services and if they regularly interacted with a clergy member.
The analysis showed that men with higher levels of the sex hormones testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) did not have strong ties to religion.
Testosterone is primarily responsible for the development of male reproductive tissues such as the testes and prostate.
DHEA is involved in developing male characteristics, which include the production of oilier skin, changes in body odor and the growth of armpit and pubic hair.
Dr Aniruddha Das, lead researcher and an associate professor of sociology at McGill University, says he’s not sure what the exact connection is between the high levels of hormones and lack of religion, but says it may come from the hormones creating ‘antisocial’ behavior.
‘There is literature connecting men’s testosterone levels with more “antisocial” activities, aggression, cheating in marriage, et cetera,’ he told Daily Mail Online.
‘So if you have those tendencies, you might want to avoid institutions of “social control” and, at least in the US, religion is pretty much the strongest of those.’
According to a 2017 Gallup poll, about 80 percent of Americans identify as religious. Three-quarters identify with a sect of Christianity, with 2.1 percent and 0.8 percent identifying as Jewish or Muslim, respectively.
The researchers say they hope future studies will look at how hormones shape religious patterns as we age.
‘We assume that religious or political behavior are driven by culture, childhood socialization, et cetera,’ Dr Das said.
‘But many of these activities may in fact have neuroendocrine roots. So in fact, there could be biological reasons behind the particular personal networks and social affiliations that people form during the course of their lives.’