Harvard Study Shows the Benefit of Religious Service Attendance to Women’s Health

hsphA new study by researchers at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, finds that women who attended religious services at least twice a week were 30 percent less likely to die than women who did not attend religious services. Women who attended church less often but attended regularly also had lower rates of mortality than women who did not attend at all.

The researchers looked at data from 1992-2012 from 74,534 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study. The women answered questionnaires about their diet, lifestyle, and health every two years, and about their religious service attendance every four years.

Compared with women who never attended religious services, women who attended more than once per week had 33 percent lower mortality risk during the study period and lived an average of five months longer. Those who attended weekly had 26 percent lower risk and those who attended less than once a week had 13 percent lower risk.

“Our results suggest that there may be something important about religious service attendance beyond solitary spirituality,” said Tyler VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at Harvard  and senior author of the study. “Part of the benefit seems to be that attending religious services increases social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression, and helps people develop a more optimistic or hopeful outlook on life.”

The study, “Association of Religious Service Attendance With Mortality Among Women,” was published on the website of the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. It may be accessed here.

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