Longevity: It’s good for you
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.”