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Do you regularly attend religious services? If so, you are reducing your risk of death, according to a new study.
Researchers at Yeshiva University and its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine say that people who regularly attend religious services are cutting their risk of death by 20 percent.
These findings were based on data from participants spanning numerous religious denominations. The study evaluated the religious practices of 92,295 post-menopausal women participating in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). The WHI is a long-term study addressing the health issues of women and funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers studied religious association, attendance, strength and comfort derived from religion, as well as overall rates of mortality. Results showed a 20 percent decrease for the risk of death.
"Interestingly, the protection against mortality provided by religion cannot be entirely explained by expected factors that include enhanced social support of friends or family, lifestyle choices and reduced smoking and alcohol consumption," said Dr. Schnall, who was lead author of the study. "There is something here that we don't quite understand. It is always possible that some unknown or unmeasured factors confounded these results," he added.
Researchers also looked at variables such as self-report of religious affiliation, frequency of attending religious services, and religious strength. The study did not measure spirituality, it mostly looked at self-report religiosity measures. The participants of the study were asked to answer three questions:
1. religious affiliation (yes or no);
2. how often services were attended (never, less than once per week, once per week, or more than once per week);
3. if religion provided strength and comfort (none, a little, a great deal).
Participants that attended religious services at least once per week showed a 20 percent reduction risk of mortality than those not attending any services at all.
"The next step is to figure out how the effect of religiosity is translated into biological mechanisms that affect rates of survival," said Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, co-author of the study. "However, we do not infer causation even from a prospective study, as that can only be done through a clinical trial. There may be confounding factors that we can't determine, such as a selection bias, which would lead people who are at reduced risk for an impending event to also be the ones who attend services."
This study was published in the journal Psychology and Health.
Sources: Journal Abstract, ScienceDaily