The Washington Post is reporting on the study by researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE) and Erasmus University Medical School in the Netherlands which found that religious practice was the secret to lasting happiness.
“The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life,” Mauricio Avendano, an epidemiologist at LSE and an author of the study, said in a statement. “It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se, or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated.”
Four areas were monitored in the research: 1) volunteering or working with charity; 2) taking educational courses; 3) participating in religious groups; 4) participating in political or community organization.
“Of the four, participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness,” the Post reports.
The study, which involved 9,000 Europeans over the age of 50, also found that the benefits of joining community or political groups lost their benefits over time and actually led to depressive symptoms later on.
Researchers are uncertain if the benefits of religious participation are connected to being in a religious community, or to the faith itself.
But the bottom line is that “participation in religious organizations may offer mental health benefits beyond those offered by other forms of social participation.”
The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
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