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Going to Church Could Help You Live Longer

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It appears good spiritual health translates into good physical health for middle-aged women and possibly all of us.

A newly released study out of Harvard, looking at a whopping three-quarters of a million women, reveals the undeniable connection between regular church attendance and lower death rates.

The study is considered particularly credible because it is not only very large, but also very lengthy. Scientists followed the women being studied for 16 long years, from 1996 to 2012. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of the 75,000 women studied, most of them attended Catholic or Protestant religious services. The break-down of their attendance is as follows:

  • 14,000 more than once a week
  • 30,400 once a week
  • 12,000 less than once a week
  • 18,000 never attended

Women who attended religious services regularly were 33 percent less likely to die during the study period, compared with women who never attended services.

Women who went once a week were 26 percent less likely to die, and those who went less than once a week were 23 percent less likely to die.

Frequent church attendance was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of death from cancer, including a significantly less risk of two types: colon cancer and breast cancer. Frequent religious attendees also enjoyed a 27 percent lower likelihood of dying from heart disease.

"Although attendance at religious services was associated with lower cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality, attendance was not significantly associated with incidence of breast cancer or cardiovascular disease," the researchers wrote.

This type of study is considered "observational," and therefore can not definitively prove the cause-and-effect relationship between religious attendance and lower death rates than those who do not attend.

But Tyler J. VanderWeele, with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, told Reuters Health "that we had data on both service attendance and health repeatedly over time helps provide evidence about the direction of causality."

Likewise, Dr. Dan German Blazer, with Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, wrote an opinion about the study that was also published in JAMA International.

"Though we do not know the mechanisms, research and especially this study, emphasize the importance of religious service attendance to health," he told Reuters.

Because the study only included middle-aged and older professional women, "We do not know whether the results would hold for men or for younger persons," Blazer said.

"We need to continue to chip away at a better empirical understanding of cause and effect and refrain from either over-generalizing these results or dismissing them as impossible to better understand."

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About The Author

Lorie Johnson

As CBN’s Senior Medical Reporter, Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about medicine and wellness. Her goal is to provide information that will inspire people to make healthy choices. She joined CBN in 2008 and has interviewed some of the world's leading doctors and researchers from The Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Duke, and more. She kept viewers up to date throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with regular appearances onThe 700 Club, Faith Nation, and Newswatch. She has reported on many ground-breaking medical advancements, including the four-part series, Build a