Attending Church Is Good for Your Health, Longevity: Study

Christ Church in Montclair
Churchgoers sing praises during the third service of the morning at Christ Church in Montclair, New Jersey, on September 4, 2005. The church, which holds five services every Sunday to accommodate the interest of their more then 5,000 members, is planning to build a larger facility in nearby Rockaway Township despite resistance from residents and the local government. |

One of the results of attending church is that you have better health and live longer than those who do not, according to a recent study by Vanderbilt University professor Marino Bruce.

"We found in our study that actually attending church is actually good for your health, particularly for those who are between the ages of 40 and 65," Bruce, the associate director of Vanderbilt's Center for Research on Men's Health, says in a video posted to YouTube by the university.

Middle aged adults who attend church reduce their mortality by 55 percent, Bruce says, adding, "For those who did not attend church at all, they were twice as likely to die prematurely than those who did who attended church at some point over the last year."

The professor's study, "Church Attendance, Allostatic Load and Mortality in Middle Aged Adults," published in the Plos One journal, used publicly available data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey involving 5,449 participants, both men and women. It looked at participants' worship attendance, mortality and allostatic load, which is a physiological measurement, and social support.

"I'm ordained clergy so I'm always about what do we mean by our spiritual health. Does spiritual health matter with respect to biological outcomes?" Bruce says, and clarifies, "Any place of worship, any place where groups gather together to worship, it could be a church, it could be a temple, it could be a mosque… it's not about a particular faith."

He also says that the study went beyond presuming that the effects of attending worship services should be attributed only to social support. People go to church for reasons beyond social support, the study found.

"While churches are places where people can get social support, we actually found that and began to think about whether compassion is particularly important — feeling that you're doing good or having empathy for others," Bruce says.

The professor reveals he would like to also consider in future holiness and its effect on a person's health. When you feel good about yourself, you eat better and take good care of yourself, he argues.

Another study published last year showed that American women who attend a church service once a week or more are five times less likely to commit suicide compared with those who never go to a religious gathering.

The study had 89,708 women aged 30 to 55 years from across the United States as participants. It was published in July in JAMA Psychiatry.

In the conclusion, the authors of that wrote: "Our results do not imply that healthcare providers should prescribe attendance at religious services. However, for patients who are already religious, service attendance might be encouraged as a form of meaningful social participation. Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that psychiatrists and clinicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate."

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