Good news for fans of the Good News (and other religions, of course): a new study says that religious people live longer.
People who are religious live an average of four years longer than those who have no ties to religion, a study published Wednesday in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The researchers analyzed the obituaries of more than 1,000 people around the country, and adjusted for other factors that can affect lifespan, including the gender and marital status of the deceased.
Even for those whose eyes are on something beyond this world, a little more time here with loved ones is a good thing, right? Religious practice seems to be a solid determining factor for some extra years:
“Religious affiliation had nearly as strong an effect on longevity as gender does, which is a matter of years of life,” said Laura Wallace, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in psychology at The Ohio State University.
A lot of this, according to researchers, has to do with connections forged through things like volunteering and being part of a church community. That, however, doesn’t seem to explain everything:
But that isn’t the only reason for the boost in longevity, according to Wallace. “We found that volunteerism and involvement in social organizations only accounted for a little less than one year of the longevity boost that religious affiliation provided,” she said. “There’s still a lot of the benefit of religious affiliation that this can’t explain.”
The post also references a longterm study from a couple of years ago that found that regular church attendance may “lower the risk for premature death.”
“This suggests that there is something powerful about the communal religious experience,” said the senior author, Tyler J. VanderWeele, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard. “These are systems of thought and practice shaped over millennia, and they are powerful.”
Of course, most of us religious types have known all along that life is better. We just didn’t know it could be longer too.