Those who go to church more than once a week reduced their chance of dying during the 16 years of the research study by 33 per cent, while those who went once a week reduced their risk by 26 per cent. Less regular attenders still reduced their risk, but by 13 per cent, when compared to those who never attended church.
Regular worshippers were also 27 per cent less likely to die from heart disease, and had a 21 per cent reduced risk of a fatal cancer. The researchers reckon that regular church attendance adds around five months to your life.
Researchers from the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health tracked the impact of church-going on a group of 74,534 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. After adjusting for other factors that can affect longevity—such as diet, activity, alcohol consumption, weight and smoking—the researchers found that regular church-going had a major positive impact on health.
The social aspect of church attendance seemed to be the important factor, rather than just having spiritual beliefs. “Our results suggest that there may be something important about religious service attendance beyond solitary spirituality. Part of the benefit seems to be that attending religious services increases social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression and helps people develop a more optimistic or hopeful outlook on life,” said lead researcher Tyler VanderWeele.