Attending church may lengthen life - claim

Copenhagen, Denmark - A new study finds that religion can influence our health. People who go to church live longer

Religions often claim that faith and adherence to the spiritual straight and narrow will result in eternal life in the next world. A new study finds, however, that going to church can also help you to live longer in this world as well.

A study conducted by Institute of Public Health (IFSV) and recently published in the medical journal Social Science and Medicine concludes that if you go to church regularly, you will live longer.

The study took into account all known factors influencing life span - obesity, smoking, alcohol, and social network. Although the study had no explanation for why churchgoers live longer, the researchers were not surprised by the results.

‘We know that stress is detrimental, so therefore, the opposite - inner peace and stability - must be beneficial,’ said IFSV religion psychologist Peter la Cour.

The study suggests that religion can give individuals energy and peace, just like great music or nature, said la Cour.

According to the study, women stand to benefit most from going to church, extending their earthly existence by two years and three months. Faithful men earn themselves an extra year and a half.

The results support the findings made by several American studies. The results of the Danish study, a part of a Copenhagen University research program titled ‘Religion in the 21st century’, were highly anticipated, given the vast differences between American and Danish church culture.

Despite the positive effects of going to church for some, la Cour did not feel that the results of the study meant that going to church was a prescription for long life for everyone.

‘If you go to church even though you don’t like it and feel bad when you leave, then it probably won’t have an effect. You need to go to church because you like it and find it something uplifting and positive,’ he said.

The IFSV study involved 734 Danes, all from the Copenhagen suburb of Glostrup. The participants were first contacted in 1984, when all were 70 years old, and were asked about their church-going habits.