Longevity: It’s good for you

The Covington News - - RELIGION -

Yet an­other study has been pub­lished in­di­cat­ing that reg­u­lar at­ten­dance at re­li­gious ser­vices is good for your health.

This latest study was con­ducted by Pro­fes­sor Howard Litwin of the Geron­to­log­i­cal Data Cen­ter at He­brew Univer­sity, and it was re­cently pub­lished in the “Euro­pean Jour­nal of Ag­ing.”

The data in­di­cated that “the death rate was 75 per­cent higher among the group that did not at­tend syn­a­gogue than it was among the group that at­tended syn­a­gogue reg­u­larly.” (This is not to say that re­li­gious peo­ple do not die, just that dur­ing the time-frame of the study they died much less fre­quently than did the non-re­li­gious.)

Litwin’s work adds fur­ther cor­rob­o­ra­tion to what many other re­searchers have dis­cov­ered.

“There is an in­creas­ing in­ter­est in the sub­ject among re­searchers and the pub­lic,” says Susan H. McFad­den, Ph.D., of the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin at Oshkosh, who is co-chair of the Re­li­gion and Ag­ing in­ter­est group of the Geron­to­log­i­cal So­ci­ety on Ag­ing, a na­tional group of re­searchers in ag­ing. “Peo­ple who at­tend re­li­gious ser­vices at least once a week are less likely to die in a given pe­riod of time than peo­ple who at­tend ser­vices less of­ten. They tend to ex­pe­ri­ence lower lev­els of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety; dis­play signs of bet­ter health, such as lower blood pres­sure and fewer strokes; and say they gen­er­ally feel health­ier.”

The stud­ies are clearer in point­ing out the health ben­e­fits of par­tic­i­pat­ing in a faith com­mu­nity than they are in ex­plain­ing th­ese health ben­e­fits.

Ex­pla­na­tions vary. Be­ing part of a so­cial net­work in­creases a per­son’s health, churches and syn­a­gogues tend to take care of their el­derly, those who at­tend churches or syn­a­gogues tend to en­gage in less risky be­hav­ior, faith and prayer help a per­son deal with the stress of life.

Dr. Daniel Hall, of the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh Med­i­cal Cen­ter, said “There is some­thing about be­ing knit into the type of com­mu­nity that re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties em­body that has a way of me­di­at­ing a pos­i­tive health ef­fect.”

If there are in­deed health ben­e­fits in par­tic­i­pat­ing reg­u­larly in church, does this be­come a self­ish rea­son to at­tend church?

In other words, is it bad to at­tend church be­cause you think it is good for your health? No. Some self­ish­ness is a good thing. Re­mem­ber, we are made in the im­age of God, we were care­fully fash­ioned and knit to­gether, our hap­pi­ness is im­por- tant. Je­sus said, “Love your neigh­bor as your­self.” Je­sus as­sumed that we would love our­selves. Self love can lead a per­son to spend valu­able time ex­er­cis­ing, to eat healthily, to take va­ca­tions. Self love is also a good rea­son to go to church. When they ask you why you are in church this Sun­day, just say, “I’m here for my health.”

John Donaldson

Colum­nist

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