Religious faith appears to be linked to longer life expectancy, according to researchers. According to an analysis of 1,000 obituaries published in the United States, church-goers appear to live an average of four years longer than atheists.
An Ohio State University psychology team behind the study claims there is a link between religious affiliation and a longer life expectancy: people with religious affiliations frequently volunteer and participate in social activities throughout their lives. This socializing only appeared to increase life expectancy by a year or so, suggesting that other aspects of religious life, such as a low alcohol intake, could be to blame.
Researchers have discovered an unexpected link between religious faith and long life. According to a review of more than 1,000 obituaries from across the country, people who attend church may live up to four years longer than those who don’t. There is a strong correlation between religious affiliation and longer life expectancy, according to the researchers at Ohio State University.
This socializing only appeared to increase life expectancy by a year at most, suggesting that other aspects of religious life, such as a low alcohol intake, could contribute. Approximately 1,000 obituaries from across the United States were analyzed by researchers at Ohio State University. Despite the small sample size, the psychology team was confident in the correlation’s validity.
According to study lead author Laura Wallace, a psychology doctoral student at Ohio State University, there is still a lot of the religious affiliation benefit that this doesn’t account for.
Dr. Baldwin Way, an Ohio State University associate professor of psychology and a co-author of the study, echoed this sentiment. Atheists, he said, might dismiss the findings as garbage, but there was a correlation that couldn’t be ignored. That there is a correlation between how long a person lives and their religious participation, he said, according to the findings of the study.
Do you think this connection is contingent on your religious community? That’s what Dr. Way thinks. In fact, the Des Moines Register in Iowa published 505 obituaries in January and February of 2012 for the first installment of this study. There was even more of a disparity in life expectancy: religious people lived 9.45 years longer than atheists, but this decreased to 6.48 years when gender and marital status were taken into consideration.
Between August 2010 and August 2011, 1,096 obituaries from 42 major U.S. cities were published on newspaper websites. When gender and marital status were taken into account, people who had religious affiliations in their obituaries lived an average of 5.64 years longer than those who didn’t.
Volunteering and being a part of a social group have been linked to a longer life expectancy, according to numerous studies. Using data from both studies, the researchers looked into whether volunteer and social opportunities offered by religious groups might be a factor in the increased lifespan. According to the researchers, that was only a small part of the reason why religious people lived longer.
‘We found that volunteering and involvement in social organizations only accounted for less than one year of the longevity boost that religious affiliation provided,’ Wallace explained.
Dr. Way speculated that the rules and norms of many religions, such as the prohibition of alcohol and drug use and multiple sex partners, may be to blame for their longevity. While many religions promote stress-reducing practices that may improve health, such as gratitude, prayer, or meditation; he said that many religions also do so.
It was possible to examine whether the degree of religiosity in a city and its “personality” affected how religious affiliation influenced longevity because the researchers had data from other cities. Each city’s findings showed that an important personality trait associated with long life was a commitment to upholding the values and norms of the local community.
Religious people lived longer than non-religious people in highly religious cities where conformity was important. However, there is a spillover effect in some cities.
“The positive health effects of religion spill over to the non-religious in some specific situations,” said Wallace. “
It only happens in religious cities where people aren’t too worried about following the same set of rules. Non-religious people in those areas tend to outlive religious people. The study has some limitations, including the inability to control for important factors such as race and lifestyle, said Dr. Way. Because religious affiliation wasn’t self-reported, this study may have a distinct advantage over others.
This new research from Social Psychological and Personality Science backs up the growing body of evidence showing that religion has a positive impact on health, according to Wallace.