Church affiliation

Church affiliation

(religious affiliation / religious denomination / church-membership)

LASA filenames:
LASAz038 (3B, MB)

Contact: Arjan Braam


Whether people adhere to a religious organization provides some information about the tradition of world view they belong to and, in general, their types of religious convictions.

Most older people in the Netherlands have a Christian background. Therefore, the term church-affiliation has been used, as churches are Christian institutions, but other names may be more correct such as religious affiliation or religious denomination. The different types of denominations in the Netherlands can be categorized into the following main categories:

  • Non-affiliated (in essence, either with a liberal or a socialist political background, and sometimes shared identification with humanist ideological thoughts or initiatives)
  • Protestant (mainline Calvinism)
  • Strict Protestant (reformed, or orthodox, Calvinism)
  • Roman Catholic.

These types of traditions represented the so called ‘pillars’ of Dutch society, with high levels of social organization within each tradition (e.g. Felling et al. 1986; Becker & Vink, 1994). The ‘pillarization’ pertained to other features than mere the contents of beliefs. Political parties, trade unions, health care initiatives, broadcast companies, newspapers: all related to a specific ‘pillar’. As the process of secularization continues, the sharp boundaries between the religious traditions have become blurred in contemporary Dutch society. This is called ‘de-pillarization’. Nevertheless, many older adults still identify with a religious tradition, acknowledge their socialization in a religious tradition, and recognize the effects of the pillarization.

Measurement instrument in LASA

Church affiliation was asked with the question:
‘Are you a member of a church or of a particular religious group? What is your religious denomination?’
(RELIG01/RELIG1a in LASA038)

Church affiliation of the parents was asked with the question:
‘Was your mother/father (primary caretaker) a member of a church or of a particular religious group during most of your youth? What was her/his religious denomination?’ (QMO_CH, QFA_CH in LASA140)

Denominational categories in LASA:

  1. No member
  2. Dutch Reformed (= Reformed in LSN; ‘Nederlands Hervormde Kerk’, since 2004 part of the Protestantse Kerk in Nederland PKN/ Protestant Church in The Netherlands)
  3. Reformed Calvinist Union within the Reformed Church (‘Gereformeerde Bond binnen de Nederlands‑Hervormde Kerk’, since 2004 part of the Protestantse Kerk in Nederland PKN / Protestant Church in The Netherlands)
  4. Reformed Calvinist (= Dutch Reformed in LSN; ‘Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (synodaal) since 2004 of the Protestantse Kerk in Nederland PKN / Protestant Church in The Netherlands)
  5. Small reformed denominations (‘gereformeerd’) †
  6. Roman-Catholic
  7. Other protestant denominations
  8. Humanistic Society
  9. Jewish
  10. Muslim
  11. Hinduism
  12. Other

† There are dozens of different Protestant denominations in The Netherlands. The large variety would lead to too many categories. Therefore, membership of some small congregations with similar characteristics with respect to levels of orthodoxy and contents of beliefs has been colluded into the categories ‘small Reformed denominations’ (orthodox, conservative) or ‘other Protestant denominations’.

File information

For descriptive statistics of church membership of respondent and parents: here


LASAC038 / LASAD038 / LASAE038 / LAS2B038 / LASAz038 (3B) / LASAz038 (MB) (main interview: in Dutch);
Questions BQMO_CH and BQFA_CH in LAS2B140 / LAS3B140 (self-administered questionnaire: in Dutch)

Variable information

LASAC038 / LASAD038 / LASAE038 / LAS2B038
LASAz038 (3B, MB=in processing)
Questions BQMO_CH and BQFA_CH in LAS2B140 / LAS3B140

Availability of information per wave


Membership church Y/N
Denomination (RELIG1a)--Ma--

Denomination parents

¹ More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.

* 2B=baseline second cohort;
3B=baseline third cohort;
MB=migrants: baseline first cohort (in processing)

Ma=data collected in main interview;
Sa=data collected in self-administered questionnaire

Previous use in LASA

Associations between religiousness and  depression have mainly been investigated by Braam et al. (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2011).


  1. Becker, J.W., & Vink, R. (1994). Secularisatie in Nederland, 1960-1991; Sociale en Culturele Studies Vol. 19 [Secularization in The Netherlands 1960-1991; Social and Cultural Studies Vol. 19]. Rijswijk, The Netherlands, Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau.
  2. Braam AW, Klinkenberg M, Deeg DJ. Religiousness and mood in the last week of life: an explorative approach based on after-death proxy interviews. J Palliat Med. 2011 Jan;14(1):31-7.
  3. Braam AW, Deeg DJ, Poppelaars JL, Beekman AT, van Tilburg W. Prayer and depressive symptoms in a period of secularization: patterns among older adults in the Netherlands. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;15(4):273-81.
  4. Braam AW, Hein E, Deeg DJ, Twisk JW, Beekman AT, Van Tilburg W. Religious involvement and 6-year course of depressive symptoms in older Dutch citizens: results from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. J Aging Health. 2004;16(4):467-89.
  5. Braam AW, Van den Eeden P, Prince MJ, Beekman AT, Kivelä SL, Lawlor BA, Birkhofer A, Fuhrer R, Lobo A, Magnusson H, Mann AH, Meller I, Roelands M, Skoog I, Turrina C, Copeland JR. Religion as a cross-cultural determinant of depression in elderly Europeans: results from the EURODEP collaboration. Psychol Med. 2001 Jul;31(5):803-14.
  6. Braam AW, Sonnenberg CM, Beekman AT, Deeg DJ, Van Tilburg W. Religious denomination as a symptom-formation factor of depression in older Dutch citizens. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2000 May;15(5):458-66.
  7. Braam AW, Beekman AT, van den Eeden P, Deeg DJ, Knipscheer KP, van Tilburg W. Religious climate and geographical distribution of depressive symptoms in older Dutch citizens. J Affect Disord. 1999 Jul;54(1-2):149-59.
  8. Braam AW, Beekman AT, Knipscheer CP, Deeg DJ, van den Eeden P, van Tilburg W. Religious denomination and depression in older Dutch citizens: patterns and models. J Aging Health. 1998 Nov;10(4):483-503.
  9. Braam AW, Beekman AT, van Tilburg TG, Deeg DJ, van Tilburg W. Religious involvement and depression in older Dutch citizens. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 1997 Jul;32(5):284-91.
  10. Felling, A.J.A., Peters, J., & Schreuder, O. (1986). Geloven en leven: een nationaal onderzoek naar de inhoud van religieuze overtuigingen [Believing and living: a national study into contents and consequences of religious beliefs]. Zeist, the Netherlands: Kerkebosch.

Date of last update: July, 2014