Religious Attendance Extends Life

Weekly religious attendance nearly as effective as statins and exercise in extending life, study finds. In a study comparing the associations between faith and health, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) physician has shown the improvements in life expectancy of those who attend religious services on a weekly basis to be comparable to those who participate in regular physical exercise and to those who take statin-type medications. These findings are published in the March-April issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Comments (9):

  1. LongSlowRide

    April 5, 2006 at 9:37 am

    From my experience, extending life has nothing to do with religious attendance and everything to do with living to the fullest. Drink, be merry, have kids, love your family, take a dirtbike on a jump 40 feet, jump out of a plane…Its all about the heartbeat. Those that beat the fastest, enjoy it a little bit more than others.

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  2. simpleton

    April 5, 2006 at 10:37 pm

    Being connected to another person (or a group of people) extends life. IIRC, marriage has been shown to have a similar benefit, while the death of a loved one has been shown to increase the likelyhood of death in the surviving group.

    Humans are, by their nature, social creatures. Attending religious services are one way to gain a level of connectedness to those around you. Churches provide social networks. This is one thing that most religions seem to have in common with one another. It’s not the faith that provides life. It is the social network.

    There have been a couple of studies recently about prayer and the power of healing. One study showed that prayer helped. The other showed that prayer did not. The one that showed it helped correlated prayer from loved ones with increased health. The patients were aware of the prayer from their loved ones. The other one was conducted as a blind study, where self-described people of faith would pray for half of the study group, but not for the other half. This study showed no benefit to prayer. The people praying in this last group did not have any other connection to the patents, and the patients were not informed of which group they were in.

    While some have tried to claim varying degrees of bad science in one or the other of these, I think a more plausible explanation is that the correlation found in that study to be caused, instead, by a stronger sense of community. The sense of well being helps the mind, and the mind, in turn, helps to release endorphins that assist with the healing process. That is my opinion. Prayer was not the causal factor. Community ws the causal factor.

    I believe that one can obtain similar benefits from such things as support groups (Alcoholics Anonymous, anyone?) or from family. Seniors living in retirement communities may get a similar boost from associations with their peers. Marriage is another way. Having kids is another way. I believe all of these situations have been correlated to longevity. The commonality among them all is that they all create senses fo community.

    Of course, it is also my opinion that most (all?) of the world’s religions have been driven by society. Religion reflects social rules and helps to reinforce social norms. It helps to bind societies together. The teachings of each of the world’s religions, imho, reflect these very practical roots. Jews don’t eat pork because, during the genesis of their religion, pigs were disease-infested animals. The Ten Commandments codify basic civil laws (don’t kill; don’t cheat on your spouse; etc). Islam preaches the washing of hands before each prayer service (5x a day), which in turn leads to improved hygene.

    Religion, in effect, is inevitable in a social world consisting of communities. Societies aren’t formed around the religious beliefs. Instead, religions are formed around societal structures. This is evidenced most strongly by the one tennant that seems to be common to all religions: The Golden Rule (or, as Bill & Ted said it, “Be excellent to each other!”)

    People have evolved to a point where the propensity to believe in religion has become codified in our DNA. Societies help to promote health. In turn, the improved health has helped natural selection to lead to a genetic propensity to believe. Commonalities in religious experience, such as the light at the end of the tunnel or speaking in tongues) that transcend individual beliefs are a side effect of this inherited propensity to believe. These commonalities that are codified in our DNA result from some shared genetic qualities that, in turn, help to reinforce longevity.

    As such, I think it’s really less important to find the right religion than it is to find a religion. It’s not “who you choose to love”, but “do you choose to love?”. This is why I find open religious communities, such as the Quakers, Sufis, and Unitarian Universalists, among others, to be so much more compelling than other more exclusionary religions. It’s about the community, not the beliefs. It’s the community that adds to our longevity, not some divinely given gift of life that comes through faith.

    These results, from this study and the two recent ones about the power of prayer in healing, don’t surprise me one bit. And their apparently conflicting results are only conflicting when you don’t consider the aspect of the community.

    That’s my 2p worth.

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  3. surreal2u

    April 6, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    I think you raise good points. From the two studies you pointed out in prayer. I think perception has a lot to do with it. In the first study when the prayer was from loved ones and the patients were aware of them I believe a lot of that has to do with the connection more than the prayer though, as you said. Although, who really could provide an explanation, being an act of faith? Doesn’t this kind of go back to the power of positive thinking stimulating the immune system? Each person possesses the ability to focus this energy and to pull through any harsh or debilitating situation. By starting actions in the brain that effect the entire body constant reaction to positive stimulus will provide immediate or lasting results, “a miracle.” Some people call it hope, some couple this thinking with prayer, some call it faith, strength, or even relate the power to some psychic connection, but all these are “environmental” words related to the awesome power that the brain has over behavior of both mind and spirit.

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  4. Matthew

    April 6, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    Surreal2u wrote, “Each person possesses the ability to focus this energy and to pull through any harsh or debilitating situation.”

    Do you really believe this?

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  5. surreal2u

    April 6, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    No, I was not presenting that as something factual Clapper. That’s not something I’d presume to do here. It was a statement I borrowed in faith. It’s something I like to believe. I think it happens but not with any type of frequency and depends on circumstance. It was very general as well. It’s kind of like telling yourself, I am going to succeed. There is nothing to assure that outcome. Although, certain variables can make it more likely, it still boils down to, in part, what you define as success. Succeed at what? (rhetorical) I guess if I believe that if I tell myself that its possible, then its more likely to be probable (my love of fantasy). It was also made in the context of what simpleton said (or what I interpreted it as) and that the energy focused is not just our own but of our support network as well. Doubt is a real bitch to overcome. Excuse my French.

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  6. surreal2u

    April 6, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    Arrogance is faith masking my doubt and fantasy is my crutch for the inability to accept cruel truths. Disillusioned? Certainly. Happy. Yes!

    Reply
  7. surreal2u

    April 6, 2006 at 7:42 pm

    These two things hang in my house:

    Never Doubt

    “There comes a time when you begin to realize that virtually anything is possible and that nothing is too good to be true.” -Kobi Yamada

    The Essence Of Imagination

    “What we can see is only a percentage of what is possible. Imagination is having the vision to see what is just below the surface; To picture that which is essential, but invisible to the eye.”
    -Unknown

    Trite, I know. However, these are things that inspire me, the power of possibility and creative adaptation. They are the little things you never tell anyone because you don’t want to bore them or have them belittled. It’s just that simple for me and opens the door for so many other ideas working outside the confines of logic. Hear me brotha?

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  8. Matthew

    April 6, 2006 at 8:59 pm

    Wow. You’ve responded 3 times already! I was just wondering if you were serious, because saying, “pull through any harsh or debilitating situation” could lead people to believe that if someone dies from cancer or some other “harsh or debilitating situation” that positive thinking could have saved them. I believe it can help, but I think modern medicine would help alot more. If I was having a heart attack I would rather someone have a defibrillator and an aspirin rather than me just thinking happy thoughts.

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  9. surreal2u

    April 6, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    Matt I typed up something that I believed to be detailed in answering you. For some reason now on accident I have deleted it twice before posting. I’ll keep it simple as to not erase it again before I am done. πŸ™‚

    First of all the scope of your interpretation was much more serious than where I was going. I was speaking of the desire to see the next day and hope. I never discredited modern medicine. I wasn’t advocating stupidity. Always the specifics with you bro. Don’t you think sometimes you get scope stepping back and looking at the bigger picture? So, as you noted, you believe it CAN help. Help being the operative word. It’s not an exclusive thing. So state of mind would help with the recovery (if not terminal) in either event as would the support of those around that person.

    -insert specific example deleted twice- πŸ™‚

    I have a funny joke in the same light of what we are talking about.

    There is a flood in a town and everyone starts to leave because of the danger. This one man stays saying to himself, ‘God will save me’. The water rises outside his window and he moves to the second floor of his home. A man goes by in a canoe and says to get in. The man replies, ‘that’s okay God will save me’. The water continues to rise and he goes to the roof. Sitting on the roof, a raft goes by and the people offer him a spot in it. He looks at them confidently and says, ‘God will save me.’ More time passes and he drowns. He goes to heaven and he asks. ‘God, why did you not save me? God replies, the man in the canoe, the raft with people, I sent them to you and each time your turned them away.’

    The bigger picture…that’s all I am talking about.

    Good night brotha….

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