Religion Linked to Longer Life

Feb 4, 2009 by

Religion Linked to Longer Life

Religion – there is possibly no other topic which can evoke as much discussion and debate as it. And a recent study, termed the “The relationship between religion and cardiovascular outcomes and all-cause mortality in the women‘s health initiative observational study”, has found that people who attend religious services regularly for a sustained period were one-fifth less likely to die from any reason, as compared to those who did not.

The study, published in Psychology and Health, looked at the health status of over 90,000 women for a mean period of over 7 years. Data from the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term study which followed women aged 50 to 79 years from 40 different locations in the United States, was used.

Although attending such services did not seem to reduce the incidence of heart disease, which was something the researchers were looking at, the overall death rate of women who attended Christian, Jewish or other religious services at least once per week was found to be lower.

It is not clear what the reasons are for such an association, something which the study team made clear. “I don’t want to go beyond what the facts are showing us, and I want to be cautious,” said Eliezer Schnall of Yeshiva University, the leader of the study.

There are many possibilities. Religious people may be more likely to refrain from harmful habits such as smoking and excessive drinking. Perhaps it’s that additional sense of purpose they get from their religious beliefs.

Or – and I’m highly inclined to go with this – perhaps it’s just that being part of strong social networks has improved their health, something which had been shown in previous studies. I’m quite convinced of the need for healthy community in our overall state of wellbeing, including emotional and mental health.

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