Study: If You Attend Church, You Might Live Longer

People gather for Mass inside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Buffalo, N.Y., during a Jan. 12 "Mass mob." Most weeks the church has fewer than 50 in attendance. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)
People gather for Mass inside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Buffalo, N.Y., during a Jan. 12 “Mass mob.” Most weeks the church has fewer than 50 in attendance. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)

Church each Sunday might keep the Grim Reaper away.

For a while.

A Harvard study released Monday shows women who attend religious services more than once a week live an average of five months longer than women who never attend services.

Frequent attendees are also less likely to die of cancer or cardiovascular issues, the study said.

“There may be something important about religious service attendance beyond solitary spirituality,” Tyler VanderWeele, senior author of the study, said in a press release from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Part of the benefit seems to be that attending religious services increases social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression, and helps people develop a more optimistic or hopeful outlook on life,” he said.

Here’s how the study worked:

Researchers analyzed data that followed nearly 75,000 female nurses from 1992 to 2012. That data, which comes from the Nurses’ Health Study, includes information about the women’s diet, lifestyle and health as well as their religious attendance. Researchers adjusted for wide variety of factors, including their smoking and alcohol habits, race, body mass index, physical activity and more, to ensure reverse-causation wasn’t at play.

Benefits from churchgoing diminished as attendance decreased. Women who attended more than once a week were 33 percent less likely to die during the 20-year study than women who never attended. Women who attended weekly were 26 percent less likely to die during the study, and women who attended less than weekly were 13 percent less likely to die during the study.

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SOURCE: The Oregonian
Melissa Binder

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