Exercise and eating well are not the only ways to increase life expectancy. A new study found that people who attend religious services weekly live longer.
Detailed in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, the study revealed an added 1.8-3.1 years to life expectancy for churchgoers. Based on a review of existing research, the findings also showed regular physical exercise adds 3.0-5.1 years and proven therapeutic regimens adds 2.1-3.7 years.
"There is something about being knit into the type of community that religious communities embody that has a way of mediating a positive health effect," study leader Daniel Hall, a resident in general surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told LiveScience the science and technology website of New York-based Imaginova.
Also an Episcopal priest, Hall listed possible reasons for the longer life span, including a decrease in the level of stress when involved with religion and being able to make meaning out of life.
Hall also examined the costs of the three categories researched on life expectancy. When factoring in typical gym membership fees, therapy costs from health insurance companies and census data on average household contributions to religious institutions, the estimated cost of each year of additional life gained for regular religious attendance was $7,000. Regular physical exercise came out to $4,000 and proven therapeutic regimens totaled $10,000.
"Religious attendance is not a mode of medical therapy," said Hall, who cautioned on drawing any big conclusions.
He clearly stated that "the significance of this finding may prove to be controversial and that "there is no evidence that changing religious attendance causes a change in health outcomes."
"But at the very least, he said, it shows that further research into the associations between religion and health might have implications for medical practice."
In any case, Hall suggests religiousness to be considered as a demographic factor.
"Knowing a person's religious practices might prove useful in evaluating their condition and suggesting potential treatments."