Among the many things that can help you live longer, you may want to add participating in regular religious services. The regular practice of religion, along with having faith, could add as much as four years to your life – possibly even more.
Two studies followed up the participants for 16 years and 18 years. The 16-year study found that those who attended a religious service at least two times a week had reduced the likelihood of dying during the study by 33 percent. They were compared to non-attendees of any religion.
The 18-year study had even more remarkable results. It concluded that people attending religious services at least twice a week had reduced their likelihood of dying during the study by as much as 55 percent.
As the researchers sought an explanation of this effect, they quickly eliminated the social aspect. Simply meeting with other people socially was found to add less than one year to longevity. They concluded that there must also be religious beliefs and practices.
Other possible explanations likely include the stronger demand for religious people to live a healthier lifestyle. It would include things like abstaining from sex outside of marriage, drinking, and smoking. A healthier lifestyle is known to enable greater longevity than those who engage in such things. It also helps to lower blood pressure and reduce strokes. Older people in the church services often claim that they feel healthier than those not practicing a religion.
The spiritual aspect also seems to have a part in longevity. When the soul has faith and is right with God, it affects the body. Taking daily concerns and burdens to God helps to reduce stress and brings inner peace.
After eliminating other factors, researchers are not exactly sure why practicing religion has longevity effects on people. There are several possible reasons why these people live longer. The main thought is that those who practice religion regularly benefit from the reduction of stress. Stress is reduced through prayer and meditation.
Stress is also reduced when people meet with people of a similar mindset – they have the same beliefs and practices. Groups that meet together for a common cause – worship and support – strengthen each one in their beliefs and unites them further.
The studies also revealed that those who attended religious services regularly were more likely to volunteer. Attending the services and volunteering would bring them into frequent contact with other people – enabling them to establish relationships with some of them.
An earlier study focused on those people that attended church. It found that those who go to church regularly claim helpful support from three distinct areas. They are the leadership of the church, others in the congregation, and God. Church-goers recognize that the help received from these three sources decreases stress, reduces depression, and brings a higher level of satisfaction. It also helps to eliminate loneliness.
Studies have also been made to determine whether or not practicing religion solo has the same effect as those who regularly participate in congregational services. The result was that those who met regularly as a group had a longer lifespan on average than those that practiced religion alone.