Tag Archives: longevity effect of religious affiliation

Religious people live 4 years longer than atheists

Four days ago, I posted about church attendance reducing suicide risk by half.
Here is more evidence that being a Christian is good for our health, both mental and physical.

The lonely world of atheists

A study by a team of researchers found a surprising correlation between longevity and religious faith: religious people live up to four years longer than atheists.
Published on June 13, 2018 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, the article “Does Religion Stave Off the Grave? Religious Affiliation in One’s Obituary and Longevity” was authored by:

  1. Laura Wallace, the lead author, is a doctoral student of psychology at Ohio State University (OSU).
  2. Rebecca Anthony, who is in her final year of medical school at OSU.
  3. Dr. Christian End, associate professor of psychology at Xavier University.
  4. Dr. Baldwin Way, associate professor of psychology at OSU.

As summarized by a press release from Ohio State University, the study employed two samples of obituaries;

  1. A first sample of 505 obituaries published in Iowa’s Des Moines Register  in January and February 2012, showed that people with religious affiliations lived 9.45 years longer than atheists. The gap in longevity shrank to 6.48 years when gender and marital status were taken into account.
  2. A second sample of 1,096 obituaries from 42 major U.S. cities published on newspaper websites between August 2010 and August 2011, found that people whose obits mentioned a religious affiliation lived an average of 5.64 years longer than those whose obits did not. That gap shrank to 3.82 years after gender and marital status were considered.

The researchers tried to account for these likely explanatory (or “contaminating”) factors:

  • Many studies have shown that people who volunteer and participate in social groups tend to live longer than others. As an example, attending church regularly increases the odds of becoming friends with other attendees. Wallace et al. combined data from both samples and determined that volunteerism and social engagement only partly accounted for the greater longevity of religious people. Wallace said: “We found that volunteerism and involvement in social organizations only accounted for a little less than one year of the longevity boost that religious affiliation provided. There’s still a lot of the benefit of religious affiliation that this can’t explain.”
  • What about the importance that many religions place on conformity to community values and norms? The researchers found that in highly religious cities where conformity was important, religious people tended to live longer than non-religious people.

Other possible explanatory factors:

  • The researchers allowed that the longevity effect of religious affiliation may have to do with the rules and norms of many religions restricting unhealthy practices such as alcohol, drug use and sexual promiscuity.
  • In addition, Dr. Way said, “many religions promote stress-reducing practices that may improve health, such as gratitude, prayer or meditation.”
  • Way also admitted that the study could not control for important factors related to longevity such as race and health behaviors.

Nevertheless, lead author Wallace said that overall, the study provides additional support to the growing number of studies showing that religion does have a positive effect on health.
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~Eowyn

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