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)