By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A study published by researchers at Yeshiva University and its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, strongly suggests that regular attendance at religious services reduces the risk of death by approximately 20 percent.
According to a press release from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, researchers evaluated the religious practices of 92,395 post-menopausal women aged 50 to79 who were participating in the Women’s Health Initiative, a national long-term study aimed at addressing women’s health issues.
Researchers examined the women’s religious affiliation, church attendance, and the strength and comfort they said they derived from religion with subsequent cardiovascular events and overall rates of mortality.
Those attending religious services at least once per week showed a 20 percent overall reduced risk of death compared with those not attending services at all. These findings corroborate prior studies that have shown up to a 25 percent reduction in such risk.
The study did not show a similar change in death rates specifically related to cardiovascular disease, with no explanation readily evident.
It is interesting to note that the study adjusted for other factors that might influence the outcome, such as women’s participation in organizations and group activities that promote a strong social life and enjoyable routines, all behaviors known to lead to overall wellness. However, even after controlling for such behavior and other health-related factors, the improvements in morbidity and mortality rates exceeded expectations.
“Interestingly, the protection against mortality provided by religion cannot be entirely explained by expected factors that include enhanced social support of friends or family, lifestyle choices and reduced smoking and alcohol consumption,” said Eliezer Schnall, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor of psychology at Yeshiva College of Yeshiva University and the lead author of the study.
“There is something here that we don’t quite understand,” he said, then added. “It is always possible that some unknown or unmeasured factors confounded these results.”
Researchers are considering further study, including doing an analysis of psychological profiles of women in the study to determine if such profiles can help to explain the apparent protective effects of attending religious services.
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