Survival of the Religious

People who go to church regularly live around seven years longer than people who don’t … More precisely, if you go to church once a week, your advantage is 6.6 years. If you worship at church more than once a week, your edge increases to 7.6 years, a bonus of one additional year.

It is not clear whether the particular religion matters, says Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University Medical Center. More research is needed to determine if the effects are the same for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, or any other creed.

However, longer life appears to be correlated with the extent to which your faith is integrated into your daily decisions and actions. People with committed religious beliefs tend to have stronger support systems and more solid relationships; they are more likely to follow teachings that reinforce a healthier lifestyle.

If religion prolongs your life, what about the opposite? What if you’re struggling with your beliefs? Once more the answer is stunning. It turns out that if you are wrestling with God, it could kill you.

According to an extensive study by Dr. Kenneth Pargament, grappling with God put patients “at increased risk of death.” More precisely, patients in religious turmoil had a 6 to 10 percent greater risk of dying compared to those who weren’t … Patients who felt alienated from or unloved by God and attributed their illness to the devil were 19 to 28 percent more likely to die during the two-year study period.

Why do some people grow spiritually in a time of crisis while others struggle and decline? Pargament says the key question is, “How big is your God?” By that he means, “Do you have an understanding of God or things sacred that’s broad enough to encompass both the good and the bad in life?

Excerpted from The Survivors Club: Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life by Ben Sherwood. (pgs 213-223)


5 thoughts on “Survival of the Religious

  1. I don’t know, Mike… I have been around some pretty exasperating Christians in my day. 🙂
    One of the things I have learned over the near death of my son the first day he was born, my near death experience this last year, and just coping day to day with unemployment for the last year and a half….
    I have learned that through it all my faith still holds.
    Have there been times where I raised my hands to heaven and screamed rather loudly, why God?
    Sure, but Paul puts it rather clearly in Ephesians and Galations that we either have faith through it all, or we never really had faith at all.
    I am 50 years old but the one thing I learn on a daily basis is that I still have so much to learn. I have grown incredibly over the last 3 years and as hard as it is to be chipped as God turns us into our final diamond for heaven, I can’t say that I would be me, without the hardships.

    My wife gets upset with me sometimes saying that our life isn’t as peachy as I make it out to be. I don’t see a peachy life, but I do see an opportunity waiting to be perfected in Christ.

    I guess I’m one of those annoying glass is 3/4 full kind of guys.

  2. On a personal level, I am finding just the opposite. As the evangelical church in America continues to pursue a “consumerism” agenda, with “Sunday Morning Entertainment” at center stage, I find that my life is slowly ebbing away. But maybe that is just my personal experience!

    1. Remember, Dan, these stats have to do with religion in general and not Christianity in any specific form. In some ways faith is beneficial, regardless of its object. Probably because we are spiritual as well as physical beings.

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