A new research published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, which looked into the lives of thousands of women especially, has attributed “longer life” to those who attend religious services more than women who never attend church services.
CNN report showed the participants answered questions about whether they attended religious services regularly every four years between 1992 and 2012, and about other aspects of their lives over the years.
The report says women who regularly attended religious services had higher rates of social support and optimism, had lower rates of depression and were less likely to smoke. However, the researchers took into account these differences between churchgoers and non-churchgoers when they calculated the decrease in death rates of 13% to 33%.
According a Tyler VanderWeele, the lead researcher and a professor of epidemiology at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard:
“Religious attendance is a relatively good determinant of health. It is perhaps an under-appreciated health resource.”
“Church attendance didn’t prevent the incidence of cancer or cardiovascular disease, but once you had it, you fared better.
“Going to church could also promote self-discipline and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, or it could provide an experience of the transcendent.“
He explained the findings which suggests that “for health, benefits outweigh the potentially negative effects, such as guilt, anxiety or intolerance.”
Most of the women in the study were Protestant or Catholic, so it is not clear whether a similar association would be found between religious service attendance and longer life for people of other Christian religions, Judaism or Islam.
It was apparent that the study did not explore whether longer life can be associated in men, although VanderWeele said previous research suggests that male churchgoers also benefit, but their decrease in death rate is not as large as among women.
There has been speculations and questions on why more women flock to church, but a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center, Dr. Dan German Blazer II, said, “there are thousands of studies looking at whether religion is good for your health. The findings have been mixed about whether aspects of religious devotion such as prayer and spirituality — such as reading the Bible or other religious literature — improve longevity.”
According to Blazer, who wrote an editorial about the new study in the same issue of JAMA Internal Medicine,
“The one (aspect) that is significantly more predictive of good health is about religious service attendance. You have a more integrated life in this sense.”