Going to church is good for your health, according to a new Harvard study. Attending religious services leads to better health and longer life

Harvard Study: Going to Church Boosts Health

In All Health Watch, Anti-Aging, Featured Article, Longevity by INH Research3 Comments

Going to church dramatically improves health, new research shows.

In a 20-year study, Harvard scientists found that women who went to religious services twice a week were one-third less likely to die compared to non-attendees.1

The study included data on more than 75,000 U.S. women between the ages of 46 and 71.

You might be thinking that people who go to church have better health because they are less likely to smoke, drink to excess, or partake in other unhealthy vices. But the researchers adjusted the data to account for this. They also adjusted for differences in diet, exercise, weight, mental health, and race. This allowed them to isolate church attendance as a variable.

Women who went to religious services more than once a week lived an average of five months longer than women who never went to services. The denomination of the church did not matter.

Professor Tyler VanderWeele is a professor epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He led the study.

“Service attendance may be a powerful and underappreciated health resource,” VanderWeele said.

Even occasional church-goers have a mortality risk that is 13% lower than non-goers.

Researchers said the impact of church-going on men’s health does not seem as strong. However, the study did not specifically look at men.

The research was published in the May 16 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Professor VanderWeele said scientists don’t know exactly why attending religious services improves health. But he believes it may due to social support and the sense of community congregants get from being part of a worship group.

Researchers Confirm the Healing Power of Faith

The Harvard study confirms other research that has found beneficial health effects from faith:

  • A Duke University study found religiously active people have lower blood pressure.2
  • People with religious faith have less mental illness, according to another Duke study.3
  • People who attend church once a week or more are less likely to be hospitalized, according to a study published in the Southern Medical Journal.4
  • Members of prayer groups have lower heart attack risk, a 2005 study found.

Even if you’re not religious, you can get the health benefits associated with faith, says Dr. Richard Besser. He is chief health and medical editor at ABC News.

The key is make sure you have people near you who care about you, Dr. Besser says.5 He recommends that you:

  • Find a loving relationship and stick with it.
  • Support those around you in times of need.
  • Regularly give thanks for what you have.
  • Treat your body like a temple. Don’t smoke. Drink in moderation if at all. Get plenty of sleep.

After examining the research on religion and health, Dr. Besser said he came to this conclusion: “Clearly, you don’t need to be religious to practice the healthful principles laid out by many of world’s religions. Those should apply to everyone.”

In Good Health,

Angela Salerno
Executive Director, INH Health Watch

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References:
1https://consumer.healthday.com/public-health-information-30/religion-health-news-577/organized-religion-might-boost-women-s-survival-710987.html
2http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9724889
3http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9741556
4http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9786287
5http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673605669103/fulltext
6http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/03/25/is-religion-good-for-your-health/

Comments

  1. You mentioned that in a 20-year study, Harvard scientists found that women who went to religious services twice a week were one-third less likely to die compared to non-attendees. Do most church services offer activities throughout the week? My family and I recently moved to a new city and haven’t been to church for some time. Finding a church service to attend could be really beneficial for us.

  2. It’s pretty cool to think that going to church helps with your health. Just the fact that the occasional church-goer has a mortality risk that’s 13% lower than non-goers is amazing. I go to church every week, so hopefully I will live longer!

  3. I found it interesting when you said that having faith in a higher being has healing power. I didn’t grow up in a religiously inclined family so I have very little working knowledge about this stuff. My grandmother is suffering from a rare disease and modern medicine has hit a snag in providing her relief. At this juncture, we are open to all possibilities that would lead to a better quality of life for her. I’ll see to it that we visit a church this Sunday and try out the benefits claimed in this study. Thanks for this informative read!

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