Study finds churchgoers healthier than non-religious people

by Margaret Wessel Walker

In a study recently published by the Public Library of Science“Church Attendance, Allostatic Load and Mortality in Middle-Aged Adults,” subjects were tracked for 14 years. They were surveyed for church attendance, allostatic load (the impact of repeated or continual stress on the body). People who attended church at least once a year had lower blood pressure and cholesterol as opposed to those who didn’t attend church at all. There wasn’t a big difference between those who attended church regularly and “Christmas and Easter Christians.” In addition, churchgoers tended to have higher levels of education and reduced rates of smoking and drinking.

The Rev. Luke Fodor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown, NY said, “one of the things I cherish most about my faith tradition and my personal faith is the way it reframes life’s stressors – reminding me that I don’t need to be perfect for things to be good. Coming to church regularly provides us a place where we can be seen, where everybody knows our name and we are embraced for who we are: a beloved child of God.” Fodor found that church could act as a beacon of hope and solidarity, helping people feel less alone. “It expands our narrow, self-focused vision and casts a larger dream of what is possible when we work together,” Rev. Fodor said. “At St. Luke’s our goal is nothing short of transforming the world, which can seem like a stressful aim until you learn to rely on each other and the very ground of our being: God.”

The study found a “significant association between church attendance and mortality among middle-aged adults.” They concluded that, “[Allostatic Load], a measure of stress, only partially explained differences in mortality between church and non-church attendees. These findings suggest a potential independent effect of church attendance on mortality.” In other words, while a full causal link isn’t clear, the results go beyond correlation. The full study can be found here.

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