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Declining Church Attendance Is a Public Health Crisis

Two Harvard health professors (one an epidemiologist) note that declining church attendance is a public health crisis.

Of course, the point of the gospel is not to lower your blood pressure, but to know and love God. ... But there are many public health benefits of church attendance. Consider how it appears to affect health care professionals. Some of my (Tyler’s) research examined their behaviors over the course of more than a decade and a half using data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 70,000 participants.

Medical workers who said they attended religious services frequently (given America’s religious composition, these were largely 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. These effects are of a big enough magnitude to make a practical difference and not just a statistical difference.

Our findings aren’t unique. A number of large, well-designed research 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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