A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed an unexpected way for parents to give their kids a greater chance of mental and physical wellness.
The study, completed by The Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, discovered that teens and kids who were raised with religious or spiritual habits and values tended to be more healthy both physically and mentally than their peers without these elements in their lives.
“The associations of religious involvement in adolescence, including religious service and prayer or mediation, with a wide array of psychological well-being, mental health, health behavior, physical health, and character strength outcomes in young adulthood,” the study’s abstract read.
The researchers drew their conclusions after studying data surrounding children raised in various ways. When children attended a religious service at least once a week, they were found to be 18% happier later in life than those who did not attend such services. In addition, these kids were 30% more likely to volunteer for charitable organizations, and 33% less likely to partake in recreational drug use.
Although attending religious services was a big aspect of the study’s findings, it wasn’t the only element considered by researchers. The team also contemplated how often the study participants meditated or prayed on their own time. The kids spent more time doing this were found to be more satisfied with their life. They processed their emotions in a more healthy manner, and tended to be more forgiving by nature. They also were less likely than their peers to contract STIs or have sex at an early age.
“These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices,” study author Ying Chen explained. “Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”
The findings of this study, closely relating religious or spiritual values with the overall mental and physical health of children is far from isolated. Other studies have also achieved similar results. Critics implore researchers to seek out a broader demographic when testing this theory, though as they say that most of the kids surveyed, at least for this study, were white females with higher socioeconomic backgrounds.
According to researchers, the data sample size of this particular group ranged from 5,681 to 7,458 individuals. The participants were from the Growing UP Today Study (GUTS) and the Nurses’ Health Study II. The participants were observed by researchers over the span of 14 years. Therefore, this study followed the subjects for the long-haul, ensuring an accurate look at how their lives were affected by their religious upbringing.
Although the findings are interesting, they only serve to prove what believers have already known for some time — having faith and believing in a higher power makes people overall healthier and happier. This of course also includes children and how they are reared. The Bible itself includes evidence of this fact in Proverbs 22:6, which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Unfortunately, even when parents raise their children in faith, making sure they regularly attend church and even encouraging an individual commitment to faith, there is no guarantee their lives will be easy, healthy or they will remain dedicated to faith as they grow older. However, in general, by raising them in the ways of faith, parents are giving the children the best chance possible of living their most abundant and healthy lives. By starting them out on the right path, they are making it more likely that they remain headed in the right direction, a fact that is evidenced by this recent study’s findings.
~ 1776 Christian