Poll: Very Religious Americans Most Likely to Practice Healthy Behaviors

Very religious Americans tend to exercise more, eat healthier and smoke less, according to a new Gallup report.

The most religious Americans – based on church attendance and how important religion is to them – scored a 66.3 on the Gallup-Healthways Healthy Behavior Index.

Meanwhile, nonreligious Americans scored a 58.3 and moderately religious Americans scored a 60.6.

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The new report, released Thursday, is the third in a series on religiosity and wellbeing in America. The polling firm interviewed more than 550,000 adults, aged 18 and older, in the first half of the year. Overall, Gallup has found that religion plays a role in emotional and physical health.

"There are a number of factors that could contribute to very religious Americans' healthier lifestyle choices," the report states. "Some of these factors are likely overt products of religious doctrine itself, including rules related to smoking and substance abuse."

Only 14.9 percent of very religious Americans smoke compared to 27.6 nonreligious adults who are smokers.

Displaying other healthy behaviors, very religious adults are most likely to eat healthy (68.1 percent) and to exercise regularly (53.3 percent) compared to their less religious counterparts.

Gallup pointed out, "In some Christian denominations, gluttony and sloth are considered two of the seven deadly sins, and many evangelical faiths frown on drinking and smoking. The Bible indicates that one's body is the 'temple of God,' which could in turn help explain the relationship between religious orthodoxy and exercise and certain types of food consumption."

The research firm acknowledged that the relationship between health and religiosity could go in the other direction - where people who are healthier are the most likely to be religious. But it suggested that "the most parsimonious explanation" for the findings is that "those who capitalize on the social and moral outcomes of religious norms and acts are more likely to lead lives filled with healthier choices."

The first two reports in the series revealed that the most religious Americans have the highest levels of wellbeing (which is determined by life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behaviors, work environment, and basic access).

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