A new study from the United States shows that churchgoers can expect to live up to nine years longer than their more secular peers. Source: National Catholic Reporter.
Baldwin Way, a psychology professor at the Ohio State University, who led the recently published study, said there are plenty of plausible secular explanations as to why churchgoers live longer.
Researchers at Ohio State studied newspaper obituary columns in Des Moines, Iowa, as well as nationally, looking for evidence of church affiliation.
"The effect is real," Professor Way told NCR. "It's a larger effect than gender." (Women have long been known, on average, to live longer than men.)
The impact of religion Prof Way knows as a member of a Salvation Army church community in Columbus, Ohio, as well as a Vineyard group, an evangelical Christian outreach. He also spent years attending Catholic services. As a social scientist, he is not trying to save souls, but his work illustrates the positive impact faith observance has on people's lives.
"There are benefits to being involved in a church community," he said. The theory he is looking at to explain his findings is that greater social connection leads to better physical and emotional health. Studying deaths is a good way to examine the connection because mortality remains an objective measure of health.
Religiously active people are able to postpone eternal judgment because they are more likely to be involved with others, Professor Way theorises. Volunteerism among churchgoers is more pronounced.
Getting involved with others through a church community may be a key to increased longevity. Professor Way also cited studies that note participation in religious ritual reduces stress.
"Social relationships are the biggest drivers of health," he said.
Professor Way, however, is inclined to believe that churches offer a dimension that other groups can't.
"Other social organisations can provide fellowship and support. But a church is unique because it provides meaning and purpose," he said.
Study says churchgoers live longer than more secular peers (National Catholic Reporter)