Is it true what they say that you live longer if you attend church? Research has suggested the probability looks good for churchgoers. This includes seeing a boost in overall happiness, health and social relationships from attending church. The reasons many people attend church is it makes them feel connected to God and to a community that share their same interests. Now science is coming into the faith arena, giving what some believe is clarity on the influence that faith has on individuals and how it impacts their longevity.

Over the years there has been criticism that there is no correlation between prayer and church attendance, making it hokum. Dr. Dan German Blazer II is a professor of psychiatry at Duke University and was not supportive of one study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a peer-reviewed medical journal and the findings showed there was a connection between religious services and health.

“Actually attending religious services is good for their health because they are taking actions that are in line with their beliefs”
“Actually attending religious services is good for their health because they are taking actions that are in line with their beliefs,” Blazer said in an interview with CNN. The study in question conducted by Harvard, surveyed 74,534 nurses in the nation and asked if they attended religious services. The researchers discovered that the females, who attended church service, had a 33 percent lower risk of fatalities than those who did not attend a service. “Frequent attendance at religious services was associated with significantly lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality among women. Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that physicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate.”

Research also showed that people are experiencing increased health later in life, although researchers can’t figure out the conclusive reason. People who are retired have more time to attend church on a regular basis, this could be the reason for the uptick in health. Going to church and praying could lower blood pressure, help with relaxation, help with family conflicts, and gives offers hope. All these things support a healthy life. WebMD supported that spirituality may help people live longer. “A growing body of research is beginning to define the complex connections between religious and spiritual beliefs and practices and an individual's physical and psychological health. No one says it's as simple as going to services or "finding religion" later in life. It may be that people who are more involved in religious activities or are personally more spiritual are doing something that makes them feel better emotionally and helps them live longer.”

Studies from Duke University also found the health benefits of faith. There was less mental illness, less sickness that led to being hospitalized, and church members saw a reduce risk in having heart attacks. Dr. Harold Koenig is the Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center. He believes that there is an amazing connection with our bodies and going to church. Also, a leading psychiatrist in the field of religion, Koenig spoke with CBN News regarding how people of faith live longer than atheists. "The benefits of devout religious practice, particularly involvement in a faith community and religious commitment, are that people cope better. In general, they cope with stress better, they experience greater well-being because they have more hope, they're more optimistic, they experience less depression, less anxiety, and they commit suicide less often.”

You don’t need to be religious to enjoy the benefits of a community and some of the beliefs offered by faith organizations. Places of worship may emphasize that we honor the body by eating better, and stopping poor habits like smoking. Just like many faiths, there is gratitude, serving others, giving, or knowing that there is something bigger out in the universe. Services preach love, forgiveness, and finding hope in the good and the bad times. These messages are vital to our health as humans. Additionally, there are sermons and teachings on these subjects that we can all rally around and honor in our lives. People who on average went to church also had more positive emotions per day than those who didn’t go to church. Church goers were less stressed, physically fit, and had less health ailments. Scientists believe that religion is helpful for those sick. The social support that comes from attending services helps people feel needed, supported, and is a community of one where people have the common interests. People following a religion admitted to be happier and it serves as a function that helps society--a Gallup poll found in 2011.

Of course there are many factors that contribute to the health of the religious. Seventh-Day Adventists don’t smoke, and have a vegetarian diet. Christians believe their body is the temple of God. Muslims don’t drink. Gallup found: “It is possible, of course, that the noted relationship between health and religiosity could go in the other direction -- that people who are healthier are the most likely to make the decision to be religious.

This could be particularly relevant in terms of church attendance, one of the constituent components of religiousness. Healthier people may be more likely and able to attend religious services than those who are less healthy. Also there are certain individuals who make better lifestyle changes and that needs to be considered.” With so many studies coming to the surface regarding the health benefits of attending church—there has to be a grain of truth to it. Maybe not. It is bizarre and false, Psychology Today contributor Doctor Nigel Barber presented. Health researchers that give religion credit for longevity is a false hope, it is the result of being in the majority. "Americans have much lower life expectancy than is enjoyed by secular countries at a similar level of economic development such as Japan and Sweden," he wrote. "Evidently, the lower quality of life here both provides a market for religion and reduces life expectancy. If religion really promoted longevity, how could people have such short life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa where virtually everyone is deeply religious?” Not everyone is on-board with the health and church link. One can’t deny though the impact that church has made on individuals. How has church impacted your life and even your health? Share your findings.

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