Longer, Healthier Lives Linked to Belief System

What you do on Sunday morning may affect the rest of your life. People actively involved in religious organizations live longer, healthier lives, says a new study.

“Religious organizations are frequently involved in public health campaigns and supportive programs to assist marginal members of their communities,” said Dr. William J. Strawbridge, lead author of the study, which was conducted as a joint project for the California Public Health Foundation and the California Department of Health Services. The researchers studied 5,286 Californians over a period of 28 years and represented people of the Catholic, Protestant, Seventh Day Adventist/Mormon, Fundamentalists and “other/none” faiths.

Lower death rates are only one benefits of a strong belief system. More social contact, a longer marriage, more exercise and a better likelihood of quitting smoking are a few of the benefits of attending religious services frequently, researchers concluded.

The research team speculates that faith brings psychological perks of a better attitude in the face of sickness and death. Churchgoers often use faith as a coping mechanism and have a better support system for dealing with stress in their lives.

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health (1997; 87:957-961), as reported on Reuters News Wire Service, July 11, 1997.