Descriptive Title: Number of spiritual and religious centers per 10,000 people

Geographic Unit of Analysis: Census tract

Spiritual and religious centers (2011)
NeighborhoodNumber of centersCenters per 10,000 population
Bayview/Hunter's Point 58 17.1
Bernal Heights 20 7.8
Castro/Upper Market 12 6.1
Chinatown 22 23.3
Excelsior 21 5.5
Financial District/South Beach 12 17.4
Glen Park
Golden Gate Park 0 0.0
Haight Ashbury 14 6.6
Hayes Valley
Inner Richmond 49 13.9
Inner Sunset 13 5.1
Lakeshore 16 8.2
Lincoln Park
Lone Mountain/USF
Marina 6 2.8
McLaren Park
Mission 53 9.6
Mission Bay
Nob Hill 11 5.0
Noe Valley 11 5.7
North Beach 5 4.0
Outer Mission 19 6.9
Outer Richmond 22 6.1
Pacific Heights 13 6.9
Potrero Hill 6 4.8
Presidio 0 0.0
Presidio Heights 4 5.1
Russian Hill 11 6.3
San Francisco 669 8.3
Seacliff 1 3.9
South of Market 15 4.8
Treasure Island 1 3.5
Twin Peaks 2 2.9
Visitacion Valley 20 8.3
West of Twin Peaks 24 11.7
Western Addition 76 14.7

Why Is This An Indicator Of Health and Sustainability?

Spiritual and religious centers may foster social cohesion is by facilitating the development of social networks among their constituents. Social networks and social integration are beneficial to health: Healthy People 2010 asserts that the social environment—including interactions with family, friends, coworkers, and others in the community—has a "profound effect on individual health."a

For example, social support can buffer people from the negative psychological effects of life stress.b One review of over 100 studies concluded that social support for pregnant women improves fetal growth.c Other studies have found women who receive social support have healthier babies, fewer complications in pregnancy and birth, and less postpartum depression.d Emile Durkheim's work on suicide showed that the lowest rates of suicide occurred in societies with the highest degrees of social integration.e In Alameda County in 1979, researchers found that men and women who lacked ties to others were 1.9 to 3.1 times more likely to die during the follow-up period than those who had many contacts.f Other studies have linked specific health conditions—such as strokes, death from cardiovascular disease, and the common cold—to having fewer social ties.c,g

Spiritual and religious organizations may also encourage volunteerism and philanthropy, both by serving as charitable organizations themselves and by encouraging their constituents to donate individually.h

Spiritual and religious centers may increase civic participation by providing opportunities for their constituents to gain experience in civic skills such as giving speeches, organizing and running meetings, or bearing administrative responsibilities.h Civic participation has been associated with better health. In one study, people involved in electoral participation were 22% less likely to report being in poor or fair health.i In another study, people had 52% higher odds of reporting poor health if political engagement in their neighborhood was low.j

Neighborhoods in which residents feel social cohesiveness toward their neighbors (through mutual trust and exchanges of aid) tend to have lower mortality rates compared to neighborhoods that do not have strong social bonds.k

Interpretation and Geographic Equity Analysis

This indicator illustrates the number of religious or spiritual centers by planning neighborhoods and the number per 10,000 persons.  One of every nine spiritual or religious centers in San Francisco is located in the Western Addition, and one of every twelve centers are located in the Bayview or the Mission.  Golden Gate Park and the Presidio do not have any spiritual or religious centers and Seacliff, Mission Bay and Treasure Island/Yerba Buena Island all have one center.

The neighborhoods with the highest number of centers per 10,000 population are Chinatown, the Financial District, Bayview, Ocean View, the Western Addition, and the Inner Richmond.  These neighborhoods have 1.5 to three times the city average per 10,000 population.  The Presidio, Mission Bay, the Marina, Twin Peaks, Treasure Island/YBI and Seacliff have the lowest number of centers per 10,000 population with less than half the city average per 10,000 population.


This indicator does not represent an exhaustive list of spiritual and religious organizations, centers, and places in San Francisco. The list represents organizations classified by our data source as "religious organizations" (code 813110) by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). According to the NAICS Association, this classification code comprises "(1) establishments primarily engaged in operating religious organizations, such as churches, religious temples, and monasteries and/or (2) establishments primarily engaged in administering an organized religion or promoting religious activities."l  The corresponding index entries for this code are:

  • Bible societies
  • Churches
  • Convents (except schools)
  • Missions, religious organization
  • Monasteries (except schools)
  • Mosques, religious
  • Places of worship
  • Religious organizations
  • Retreat houses, religious
  • Shrines, religious
  • Synagogues
  • Temples, religious

These index entries provide insight into some of the types of organizations included in this list of spiritual and religious centers, but they are not exhaustive.  Our list of spiritual and religious centers comes from 2010 Dun and Bradstreet data, which was queried in October 2011. Because NAICS codes were not included in this data set, SIC codes ranging from ‘86610000’ to ‘8610202’ were used to extract religious centers. The results were then manually cleaned by internet checking questionable organization names. The centers were mapped using their address and were then assigned to a 2010 census tract and neighborhood based on their location to calculate the number of centers per 10,000 residents.


Religion and spirituality are broad concepts that are emotionally charged and difficult to define. For the purpose of this discussion, religion refers to "an organized system of beliefs, rituals, practices, and community" that are "oriented toward the sacred"; spirituality refers to "personal experiences of or searches for ultimate reality or the transcendent."m An individual's spirituality may or may not be connected to religion or another institution. Although the centers on our list are classified as "religious organizations" by the NAICS, we classify them as "spiritual and religious centers" to reflect the range of activities that take place in them.

This information about spiritual and religious centers is included in the HDMT because of the potential for such centers to foster social cohesion in their communities. While there is evidence that individual spirituality or religiosity can affect health—for example, by influencing health-related behaviors such as diet, use of medical care, or how people cope with problemsn—these processes are outside the scope of the HDMT.

One way spiritual and religious centers may foster social cohesion is by facilitating the development of social networks among the people who use them, which in turn become sources of social support. They may also encourage volunteerism and philanthropy, both by serving as charitable organizations themselves and by encouraging their constituents to donate individually.h  Many centers offer food banks, senior centers, youth programs, or other community services. Finally, spiritual and religious centers may provide opportunities for their constituents to gain experience in civic skills such as giving speeches, organizing and running meetings, or bearing administrative responsibilities.h

As with any organizations, spiritual and religious organizations also run the risk of negatively affecting social cohesion. Just as organizations facilitate social connections between their members, they may create divisions by excluding some members of the community or by encouraging norms and beliefs that are intolerant, prejudicial, or otherwise detrimental to the community's social cohesion.h,o

While the centers on this list represent places where people may congregate to express or share spirituality or religion, the list provides no information about the size or make-up of the populations using the centers. It also provides no information about the specific programs and services offered by the centers. Centers may differ in many ways, such as the populations they serve or the number and types of programs they offer for community members.

The number of spiritual and religious centers is one among many possible indicators of social cohesion within a neighborhood. Taken alone, the existence of spiritual or religious centers does not necessarily mean that a neighborhood is socially cohesive. Similarly, it is possible for a neighborhood to be socially cohesive even if there are no spiritual or religious centers there.

Social cohesion is not a time-static concept; movement of residents, organizations, and businesses into and out of a community can impact the social dynamics among neighbors and other components of social cohesion. While this indicator provides a snapshot of one aspect of social cohesion, it does not provide any information about long-term trends.

Data Source

Locations of spiritual and religious centers from Dun & Bradstreet, 2010.

Map and table created by San Francisco Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Section using ArcGIS software.

Map data is presented at the level of the census tract with neighborhood names in the vicinity of their corresponding census tracts.

Table data is presented by planning neighborhood. While planning neighborhoods are larger geographic areas than census tracts, census tracts do not always lie completely within a planning neighborhood. SFDPH used ArcGIS software and a dasymetric mapping technique to attribute Census block group data to residential lots. We then assigned residential lots to planning neighborhoods to calculate Census population totals within the neighborhoods.

Detailed information regarding census data, geographic units of analysis, their definitions, and their boundaries can be found at the following links:

Interactive boundaries map

  1. Healthy People 2010, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at:

  2. Cohen S, Underwood LG, Gottlieb BH, eds. 2000. Social Support Measurement and Intervention: A Guide for Health and Social Scientists. New York: Oxford University Press.

  3. Kawachi I, Colditz GA, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Giovannucci E, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. 1999. A Prospective study of social networks in relation to total mortality and cardiovascular disease incidence in men in the United States. Pp. 184-194 in The Society and Population Health Reader. Volume I: Income Inequality and Health, eds. I. Kawachi, BP Kennedy, RG Wilkinson. New York: The New Press.

  4. Berkman LF. 1999. The Role of social relations in health promotion. Pp. 172-183 in The Society and Population Health Reader. Volume I: Income Inequality and Health, eds. I. Kawachi, BP Kennedy, RG Wilkinson. New York: The New Press.

  5. Berkman LF, Kawachi I. 2000. A Historical Framework for Social Epidemiology. Chapter 1 in Social Epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press.

  6. Berkman LF, Syme SL. 1979. Social networks, host resistance and mortality: a nine-year follow up study of Alameda County residents. American Journal of Epidemiology 109:186-204.

  7. Cohen C, Doyle WJ, Skoner DP, Rabin BS, Gwaltney JM. 1997. Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. JAMA 277(24):1940-1944.

  8. Putnam R. 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

  9. Kim D, Kawachi I. 2006. A multilevel analysis of key forms of community- and individual- level social capital as predictors of self-rated health in the United States. Journal of Urban Health 83(5):813-826.

  10. Cummins S, Stafford M, MacIntyre S, Marmot M, Ellaway A. 2005. Neighborhood environment and its associations with self-rated health: evidence from Scotland and England. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59:207-213.

  11. Lochner KA, Kawachi I, Brennan RT, Buka SL. Social capital and neighborhood mortality rates in Chicago. Social Science & Medicine. 2003;56(8):1797-1805.

  12. NAICS Association. 813110 Religious Organizations. Available at: Retrieved 7/15/2008.

  13. Dew RE, Daniel SS, Armstrong TD, Goldston DB, Triplett MF, Koenig HG. 2008. Religion/spirituality and adolescent psychiatric symptoms: a review. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev [e-pub ahead of print]. Available at:

  14. George LK, Ellison CG, Larson DB. 2002. Explaining the relationships between religious involvement and health. Psychological Inquiry 13(3): 190-200.

  15. Williams DR, Sternthal MJ. 2007. Spirituality, religion, and health: evidence and research directions. Medical Journal of Australia 186: S47-S50.