New Study: Harvard Researchers Reveal Going to Church Could Help People Live Longer

Researchers from Harvard University in the United States have published a new study claiming that people who attend church service regularly could live longer.

The researchers said frequent attendance of church can help reduce diseases such as cardiovascular, cancer, depression and other diseases.

The study has been accepted in the online journal, JAMA Internal Medicine. According to how the researchers conducted the study, they looked at data on nearly 75,000 middle-age female nurses in the United States as part of the Nurses’ Health Study.

Most of the women used in the study were said to be Protestant or Catholic. It is therefore not clear whether a similar association would be found between religious service attendance and longevity for people of other Christian religions, Judaism or Islam.

s 1

The nurses were asked to answer questions about whether they attended religious services regularly, every four years between 1992 and 2012, and about other aspects of their lives over the years.

The researchers found that women who went to church more than once a week, had a 33% lower risk of dying during the study period, compared with those who said they never went. Less-frequent attendance was also associated with a lower risk of death, as women who attended once a week or less than weekly had 26% and 13% lower risk of death, respectively.

Women who regularly attended religious services also had higher rates of social support and optimism. They also had lower rates of depression and were less likely to smoke, according to the study. However, the researchers took into account these differences between churchgoers and non-churchgoers when they calculated the decrease in death rates of 13% to 33%.

s 3

Apart from the longevity that was discovered from the study, the researchers said there were a number of  additional benefits that people who attend church regularly, could get. For example, the study revealed that attending church regularly could promote self-discipline, a sense of meaning, living a purposeful life, and provide a magnificent experience for the individual.

The study concluded that religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that physicians could explore with their patients as appropriate.

Lead researcher of the study, Professor Tyler J. VanderWeele was quoted as saying “Our results suggest that there may be something important about religious service attendance beyond solitary spirituality. “Part of the benefit seems to be that attending religious services increases social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression, and helps people develop a more optimistic or hopeful outlook on life.” Professor VanderWeele is the epidemiologist in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center, Dr Dan German Blazer, has closely studied the findings of the study and has said there have been literally thousands of studies looking at the impact of religion as good for human health.

s 4

He noted that the study, as of now, lacked sound theoretical background, and that it will remain speculative until further studies are carried out. Other researchers also agreed with Dr German’s assertion, cautioning that people should not take the study to mean avoiding medical checkups with their physicians.

Dr Blazer added that the attitude about the place of religion in medical care is becoming more common among health care professionals, and has been introduced into the curriculum of more and more medical schools, which has started to stir some controversies.