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Strong Link Between Church Attendance and Health

Dr. Tyler J. Vanderweele, an epidemiology professor at Harvard, spent a decade researching how regular church attendance impacted health care workers. He summarized his conclusions:

Medical workers who said they attended religious services frequently (mostly in Christian churches) were 29 percent less likely to become depressed, about 50 percent less likely to divorce, and five times less likely to commit suicide than those who never attended. And, in perhaps the most striking finding of all, health care professionals who attended services weekly were 33 percent less likely to die during a 16-year follow-up period than people who never attended.

He also found that regular service attendance helps shield children from the “big three” dangers of adolescence: depression, substance abuse, and premature sexual activity. “People who attended church as children,” he added, “are also more likely to grow up happy, to be forgiving, to have a sense of mission and purpose, and to volunteer. Regular church service attenders also had far fewer “deaths of despair”— deaths by suicide, drug overdose, or alcohol—than people who never attended services, reducing those deaths by 68 percent for women and 33 percent for men in the study.

These findings aren’t unique. Many other studies have found that religious service attendance is associated with “greater longevity, less depression, less suicide, less smoking, less substance abuse, better cancer and cardiovascular disease survival, less divorce, greater social support, greater meaning in life, greater life satisfaction, more volunteering, and greater civic engagement. The findings are extensive and growing.”

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