Every Sunday, millions of Christians attend church services in the United States. They also read their Bibles, pray, and meditate often. Religious people typically feel their belief in something greater than themselves will benefit them in this life and the one to come. New research suggests this sentiment may ring decidedly true.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University and published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found believers live significantly longer than their atheist counterparts.
The research study, led by Laura Wallace, a doctoral psychology student at Ohio State, revealed that people of faith live an average of four years longer than those who don’t possess religious beliefs. The intriguing study was based on the obituaries of more than 1,000 people across the United States. In a statement to the Washington Times, Wallace highlighted that the effect faith has on a person’s lifespan is similar to the role gender plays.
“Religious affiliation had nearly as strong an effect on longevity as gender does, which is a matter of years of life,” she said.
During the study, researchers examined 1,600 obituaries spanning from 2010 to 2012. They noted each deceased individual’s marital status, religious affiliation, and any social activities listed. The research comprised of a couple of different samples. The first one consisted of 505 obituaries that were published in the Des Moines Register during the months of January and February of 2012. The stunning sample revealed people with a religious affiliation’s lifespans were 9.45 years longer than atheists, or people who did not believe in God. After making this startling discovery, the researchers analyzed the data more closely. Once they made adjustments for marital status and gender, the researchers determined believers lived an impressive 6.48 years longer than non-believers.
The other sample utilized 1,096 obituaries from 42 large cities in the United States. The obituaries in the second sample were included on various newspapers’ websites between the months of August of 2010 and August of 2011. This sample showed people of faith’s lifespans were 5.64 years longer than atheists, or those that did not believe in God. After the researchers accounted for marital status and gender, they discovered believers lived 3.82 years longer than non-believers.
The researches who participated in the study feel one reason people of faith may live longer than atheists is due to their greater tendency to volunteer and participate in social activities. These are qualities that have been linked to longer lifespans. However, while these things are believed to add longevity to someone’s life, the researchers disclosed that they only add about a year at most.
“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,” Wallace stated. “There’s still a lot of the benefit of religious affiliation that this can’t explain.”
Researchers further implied that other attributes associated with people of faith, such as lower alcohol consumption, may account for believers’ longer lifespans.
The recent research study isn’t the first of its kind. A study led by Tyler J. VanderWheele, professor of epidemiology in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2016 found women who attended church services more than once each week had a 33 percent decreased risk of dying during the span of the study than those who reported they never attended services at a place of worship. The study analyzed data from 75,000 female nurses in the United States from 1992 to 2012. The women who participated in the study were middle-aged.
Participants who attended church less frequently also diminished their risk of dying during the 20-year timeframe. Nurses who went to church once each week or less than weekly experienced 26 percent and 13 percent lower chances of dying respectively. In addition to a decreased risk of dying, participants who regularly attended church reported higher rates of optimism and social support. They also exhibited lower rates of depression and were also less likely to be smokers.
~ 1776 Christian