Study shows link between regular attendance at religious services and health and longevity

January 9, 2018 by Melva Robertson, Emory University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers from the Emory Rollins School of Public Health have published a paper in PLOS ONE that links regular attendance at religious services with improved health and lowered mortality.

The researchers conducted an on data collected 2004-2014 through the University of Michigan's Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which surveyed social and economic determinants of mortality in middle-aged and older adults, including religious factors.

"We wanted to link the research on religion—especially religious attendance—into the of health framework," says Idler.

This was an idea the paper's authors also examined in their book, Religion as a Social Determinant of Public Health (Oxford University Press, 2014), edited by Idler and featuring chapters by Blevins, Kiser, and Hogue, in addition to numerous additional Emory faculty.

"With this paper, we were able to take a theory and a conceptual framework to real data and came back with some dramatic findings. "

They found that there is a substantial amount of protection against mortality from all causes for people who attend once a week or more often. Even those who attended less frequently had a greater protection against than those who didn't attend at all. There were no differences by religious affiliation.

Part of this may be due to the positive health behaviors shown among those who attend religious services more often. For instance, those who attended services more often were less likely to smoke or drink alcohol than those who never attended, and they were more likely to exercise and get health screenings. Those frequenting religious services also experienced social benefits linked to health, like being part of a socially supportive community or volunteering to help others.

The findings showed that the protective effect of frequent attendance at services was very comparable to the effects of higher levels of income and wealth, economic factors that were especially well measured in the HRS.

Explore further: Study connects religious service attendance to less depression

More information: Ellen Idler et al. Religion, a social determinant of mortality? A 10-year follow-up of the Health and Retirement Study, PLOS ONE (2017). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189134

Related Stories

Study connects religious service attendance to less depression

November 14, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study published in the Journal of Religion and Health has connected the regular attendance of religious services with an increased level of optimism and a decreased risk of depression.

Frequent religious service attendance linked with decreased mortality risk among women

May 16, 2016
Women who attended religious services more than once per week were more than 30% less likely to die during a 16-year-follow-up than women who never attended, according to a study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. ...

Religious service attendance associated with lower suicide risk among women

June 29, 2016
Women who attended religious services had a lower risk of suicide compared with women who never attended services, according to an article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.

Recommended for you

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Yes please to yoghurt and cheese: The new improved Mediterranean diet

December 11, 2018
Thousands of Australians can take heart as new research from the University of South Australia shows a dairy-enhanced Mediterranean diet will significantly increase health outcomes for those at risk of cardiovascular disease ...

Effect of oral alfacalcidol on clinical outcomes in patients without secondary hyperparathyroidism

December 11, 2018
Treatment with active vitamin D did not decrease cardiovascular events in kidney patients undergoing hemodialysis, according to a research group in Japan. They have reported their research results in the December 11 issue ...

Licence to Swill: James Bond's drinking over six decades

December 10, 2018
He may be licensed to kill but fictional British secret service agent James Bond has a severe alcohol use disorder, according to an analysis of his drinking behaviour published in the Medical Journal of Australia's Christmas ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.