Study Reveals Church Goers Live Longer than Those Who Don’t Attend

Vanderbilt University recently released a new study that has faith leaders jumping for joy. Why? This particular research shows that there is a strong and direct correlation between going to any type of religious service and leading a longer life with less stress.

The findings in general are “encouraging individuals to participate in something” larger than themselves, states Marino Bruce, the associate director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health at Vanderbilt. Instead of focusing on the negative effects of taking action, this study really hones in on the positive aspects that can come from doing something positive — in this case, attending a religious service on a regular basis.

Flexing Spiritual Muscles

Just as exercise is good for keeping our physical muscles in shape, attending a regular religious service tends to do the same for our spiritual muscles. What exactly are they supporting? Well, that’s difficult to determine, but the study shows that middle-aged men and women between the ages of 40 and 65 can reduce their risk of mortality by a whopping 55 percent — simply by attending a church or other house of worship on a regular basis.

The study’s co-authors include Marino Bruce as well as Keith Norris, who serves as a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Nine other co-authors shared the load of the research and crafting the results.

Allostatic Load

Interestingly enough, the study doesn’t seem to indicate that any particular brand of spirituality is more likely to lead to longevity and there were no shifts in the metrics studied based on race or sex. A total of 5,449 individuals participated in the study with 64 percent being regular worshipers.

Those who indicated that they did not attend religious services on a regular basis showed a greater overall allostatic load score and increased high-risk values for nearly one-third of the allostatic load markers.

Allostatic load is more commonly referred to as “wear and tear” on the body, which builds up as individuals are subjected to varying levels of stress. Its effect on the body’s physiology and is measured by a variety of different physical components of the body: neuroendocrine, immune, cardiovascular and metabolic markers are measured to determine the overall allostatic load index.

Measured Results

A variety of measures were taken as a part of the study, including attendance at worship service and the physiological measurements that make up allostatic load, such as high density lipoprotein and homocysteine, blood pressure, inflammatory measures such as C-reactive protein and albumin, as well as metabolic measures including glycated hemoglobin and waist-hip ratios. These various measures made up the allostatic load, or stress level, of each individual and was then compared to their worship attendance to uncover the findings.

Sample Leveling

Even after bias was removed for factors such as poverty, health insurance, education levels and the individuals social support status, the clear indicator remained that stress levels were reduced by regular worship attendance — ultimately meaning that individuals with the lowered allostatic load would enjoy increased longevity.

The study goes so far as to state that those who do not attend church at all are twice as likely to face premature death than those whose church attendance included at least one visit in the previous year.

Personal Mission

Bruce, one of the study’s co-authors, is an ordained Baptist minister so this topic is particularly close to his heart. He notes that as a minister, it’s always been important to him to understand the link between spiritual and physical health, and this study is one way to help spread the word about the positive impact of attending worship service of your choice on a regular basis.

While helping others is always a worthy goal, Bruce instead feels that the compassion and empathy gained from worship attendance is what reduces the overall stress levels for individuals and allows them to lead longer and less-stressed lives. The connection with others and the feeling of being part of something larger is also noted as a potential reason for the positive correlation between worship attendance and longer, healthier lives.

Regardless of whether attending a faith-based activity is something you pursue on an ongoing basis or only once a year, this activity has now been proven to reduce overall stress levels and improve the body’s health — presumably leading to longer, more productive lives.

~Christian Patriot Daily


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