Why Religious Believers Often Live Longer

Believers do live longer. Healthy centenarians in the world’s oldest populations do have faith. The Sardinians and Nicoyans are mostly Catholic. Okinawans have a blended religion that stresses ancestor worship. Loma Linda centenarians are Seventh Day Adventists. Ikarians have traditionally been Greek Orthodox. All belong to religious communities. The simple act of worship is one of those subtly powerful habits that seem to improve your chances of having more good years.

Via The Blue Zones

A recent study in the journal of Health and Social Behaviour followed 3,617 people for seven and a half years and found that those whose who attended religious services at least once a month reduced their risk of death by about a third. As a group, the attendees had a longer life expectancy, with an impact about as great as that of moderate physical activity.

If that seems like too small a sample size. Consider the below from The Blue Zones Solution:

The NIH-funded Adventist Health Study had similar findings. It followed more than 34,000 people over a period of 12 years, and found that those who went to church services frequently were 20 percent less likely to die at any age. It appears that people who pay attention to their spiritual side have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, depression, stress, and suicide, and their immune systems work better. Put generally the faithful are both healthier and happier.

The health boost comes from having regular socialising with friends and loved-ones, the ritual avoidance of harmful behaviours, and the benefit of relinquishing oneself to a higher power—that has a restful effect on stress and fates beyond human control.

Psychologists call this an external locus of control. In other words, they tend to relinquish control of their lives to God. The fact that God is in control of their lives relieves any economic, spiritual or well-being anxiety they may otherwise have. They go through life with the peaceful certitude that someone is looking out for them.

Having lived with brightly happy Christians in Hawai’i and Muslims in Melbourne, I can empirically accept that.

So, if you want to lead a healthful life, live more like them; take up weekly religiously regular socialising and meditate, and eat well. It’s that simple, but because it’s simple we often don’t do it. Those that believe a deity orders them to are far more likely, you see, and they gain the benefits.

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