Study connects religious service attendance to less depression

Found at Medicalxpress:

As a follow-up to a 2008 report from the Women’s Health Initiative that showed regular attendance of religious services increased life expectancy, this new study looked at 92,539 post-menopausal women over the age of 50. The religious affiliations of all the participants, as well as their social and economic statuses, were diverse.

Led by Eliezer Schnall from the Yeshiva University in Manhattan, the results showed that out of the participants that attended services regularly, 56 percent were more likely to be optimistic about their lives. It also showed that 27 percent of the participants were less likely to be depressed than those who did not attend services regularly.

Of those that were included in the research, 34 percent of the women said they had not attended services within the last month. Of those that attended, 21 percent were less than once a week, 30 percent were weekly and 14 percent attended activities more than once a week.

After the 2008 study showed that regular attendance of religious services by women reduced their risk of death by 20 percent, the researchers wanted to see what factors may contribute to that risk reduction and believe they could be related to psychological factors. The Women’s Health Initiative study began in 1991 and is funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in an effort to track women’s health and habits.

Schnall cautions that these results and their study apply only to women, and older women at that. The benefit of regular religious service attendance by younger women or men has not been looked at in this study. Past research has shown that older women tend to take more of a social role in religious activities and may gain the most from it.

After reading the article I jumped down to the comments and that’s where things got interesting. This one made me shake my head: “What’d you expect? We tell children fairy tails to make them feel better, why would it be different from adults?

Without debating the validity of various religious beliefs, could it be that maybe we (humanity) are more optimistic about our lives when we live a life with purpose, in a supportive community, surrounded by others with similar beliefs and values, all while extending ourselves to reach out and give hope to someone else?

(Oops! That sounds a bit like church doesn’t it?)

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