Religious faith prolongs life, according to new research. A Duke University study links religion with lower death rates and better health. It's the fourth time a major study has linked religious participation with better health. Over the six years studied those who attended a church or a synagogue at least once a week had a death rate 28 percent lower than those who didn't.
Earlier studies have shown that religious people have lower blood pressure, less depression and anxiety, stronger immune systems and are hospitalized less often.
Tulsa Rabbi Yehuda Weg isn't surprised. "A person that leads a healthy spiritual life is likely to lead a healthy physical existence as well," he said. Rabbi Weg says in Jewish religious texts, God often blesses his followers with long life. "The Torah doesn't mention all that many rewards in such a specific way," he noted. "But this is one of them that in itself indicates the value of life. Living itself is a blessing."
The research indicates that religious relationships help the feeling of well being that actually helps people live longer. "When we know God loves us and accepts us and cares about us, when we know that our sins our forgiven, there is a sense of inner peace that comes to us that allows us to weather the storm," said Larry Bauman, pastor, St. Marks United Methodist.
The study found a lack of religion is nearly as much of a health risk as smoking.
But the researchers noted that if you attend a church solely in hopes of improving your health, it might not make a difference.