Attend Religious Services, Live Longer
Study Shows Regular Attendance at Religious Services Cuts Risk of Death
Nov. 25, 2008 -- Going to church -- or any kind of religious service -- may
prolong your life.
A new study shows that older women who regularly attend religious services
reduce their risk of death by 20%. The study was published in Psychology and
Researchers from Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine
grouped all religions together, looking only at whether the women attended
services regularly and whether those services brought them comfort.
Organized religion creates a social network with regular routines, which is
known to enhance well-being. However, even when researchers adjusted for that
factor, the women going to services were still less likely to die.
"Interestingly, the protection against mortality provided by religion
cannot be entirely explained by expected factors that include enhanced social
support of friends or family, lifestyle choices, and reduced smoking and alcohol consumption," lead author and
clinical assistant professor of psychology Eliezer Schnall says in a news
release. "There is something here that we don't quite understand. It is
always possible that some unknown or unmeasured factors confounded these
Researchers evaluated 92,395 postmenopausal women participating in the
Women's Health Initiative Observational Study, a national, multi-ethnic,
long-term study aimed at addressing women's health issues funded by the
National Institutes of Health. The women, all between the ages of 50 and 79,
answered questions about their behaviors, health, and religious practices.
Researchers followed participants for an average of 7.7 years and made
adjustments for known risk factors, such as age and health history, when
evaluating risk of death. They found that women attending religious services at
least once per week showed a 20% mortality risk reduction compared to those not
attending services at all.
In addition to looking at mortality broadly, researchers examined the risk
of death from cardiovascular disease. They did not find that religion had an
impact on the women's risk of death by this particular cause.