Dwight L. Moody, the renowned evangelist, once said, "Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man." A new study proves how right he was.
A study published in a recent issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry reports a positive connection between church attendance and clinical depression. Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found a 22 percent reduction in depression among those who went to church at least once a month compared to those who never attend.
The authors of the study wrote, "Significantly fewer monthly attenders reported having episodes or a diagnosis of depression. This…suggests a protective effect of religious attendance." The researchers also noted that those who would identify themselves as spiritual but did not attend religious service experienced no health benefits.
Of particular interest to the authors of the study is the mysterious aspect of the health benefit. One of them wrote, "The feeling is that if you belong to a religious organization, what you are really getting is just social support, nothing else. But it would appear it is something over and above that."
In America, almost 15 million people suffer from depression or about 6.7 percent of the population 18years and older. The numbers continue to climb globally which is why the Canadian researchers tracked 12,000 people over a 14-year period to see if there was correlation between health and religion.
What the authors of the study are discovering is what followers of Jesus have known for a long time. There is something powerful and healing about knowing there is someone who cares and who is willing to take our burdens. One author wrote, "Some ingredient of the religious experience other than behaviors, networks or attitude alone probably contributes to the (health) benefit. From the believers' perspective, they have recourse to the divine assistance and thus are less likely to feel alone with the vicissitudes of life."
Another study out of Massachusetts, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, reports that belief in God may improve treatment for those needing psychiatric care. The report states, "Our work suggests that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their religious affiliation."
Science continues to explore the role of faith in medicine, with some amazing results. One study looked at the impact of prayer on cardiac patients who were asked if they wanted prayers. Those prayed for had fewer complications than those who weren't prayed over. Another study asked people to pray for couples undergoing IVF, half way around the globe. The results? Conception went up 25 to 50 percent.
Depression is nothing new. Even King David struggled. But he knew how to find healing when he said:
"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 42:5-6,11; 43:5)
I'm glad science is finally catching up.