By Helen Gibson
Want to live longer and feel less stressed? You should go to church, according to a new study.
Recent research by Vanderbilt University professor Marino Bruce found people ages 40 to 65 who attend church or other places of worship (such as a temple or mosque) more than once a week reduce their risk of mortality by 55 percent when compared to people of the same age who do not attend.
“For those who did not attend church at all, they were twice as likely to die prematurely than those who attended church at some point over the last year,” Bruce said in a video produced by Vanderbilt.
Non-churchgoers also had significantly higher overall levels of what researchers call “allostatic load” –– a physiological measure used to gauge how much stress a person experiences.
Part of the reason is that non-churchgoers were more likely to have high-risk values for three of 10 indicators of allostatic load: high-risk blood pressure, heart rate, and body mass index levels.
For this study, researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examinations Survey from 1988 to 1994, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They used a sample of 5,449 adults 40 to 65 years old. Of this group, 64 percent attended church at least once a year.
This is not the first research to link church attendance to better health. A previous study of 75,000 women found those who attend religious services once a week cut their risk of dying by a third.
Marino Bruce is a social and behavioral scientist and the director for Vanderbilt’s Center for Research on Men’s Health. He’s also a Baptist minister, which made these latest findings particularly interesting to him.
“I’m ordained clergy, so I’m always thinking about, ‘What do we mean by spiritual health?” Bruce said. “Does spiritual health matter with respect to biological outcomes?
“We found that being in a place where you can flex those spiritual muscles actually is beneficial for health.”
HELEN GIBSON (@_HelenGibson_) is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.