Dr. Richard Besser at ABC News blog speculates about the positive correlation that seems to exist between religious practice and physical health. While he writes that he is “not a religious person and (has) yet to see a any convincing studies that compare the belief systems of various religions and their impact on health” he notes:
There has long been a correlation between being a churchgoer and longevity, but it has been difficult to tease out the basis of that relationship. The link to better health was partially attributed to self-selection. Religious people were the type of people who would practice behaviors favorable to more healthful living and thus live longer. Studies found that churchgoers were less likely to engage in high-risk health behaviors such as smoking and excessive drinking. After all, getting up bright and early for church Sunday mornings does hamper Saturday night binging. Being able to travel to church might also be a marker for mobility and healthfulness, rather than its cause.
There are also many beneficial spiritual aspects to consider. The meditative nature of religious services can lower stress levels. Many services preach love, forgiveness, hope, and optimism, which foster a positive outlook on life that can translate into good emotional health. Many sermons address the importance of giving thanks, and we know that gratitude can be very important for mental health. In addition to religious leaders providing counseling, some religions incorporate confession, which can help unburden congregants from emotional distress. These are all things that might be good for your health.
Read full post here.