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3 ways that regular church attendance is good for your health

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This column is part of our ongoing opinion piece on faith, called Living our faith. Find the complete series here.

We all know how fulfilling it is to attend church services and be part of a welcoming faith community. But attendance is also good for your health.

Fellowship and fellowship, spiritual growth, and the opportunity to spend time in an inspiring place of worship are just a few of the reasons why attending church and being a member of a church family makes us feel good. in better health.

There have been, in fact, hundreds of studies, at universities and institutes and under the supervision of qualified medical experts, which have demonstrated the health benefits associated with regular in-person church attendance.

Here are three key benefits of regular church attendance:

Reduced risk of depression

Canada’s National Population Health Survey, which followed thousands of adults for 14 years (1994-2008), was one of the largest studies ever conducted on the impact of school attendance. church on depression. Researchers found that people who attended church once a month or more often had a 22% lower risk of severe depression than those who did not, after controlling for other factors that might have influenced the rates. of depression.

These data were entirely consistent with a study of American adolescents. In 2019, researchers at the University of North Carolina studied the effects of church attendance on depression in adolescents aged 13 to 18. to young people who did not go to church at all.

Interestingly, these researchers also studied the effects of religious feelings in general, looking to see whether non-ecclesiastical children who had many religious classmates were less likely to be depressed than those who had less. They found that these children were less prone to depression, which reveals something about the positive impact of being around people who hold their religious beliefs.

Better sleep

A 2018 study sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation found a link between church attendance and high-quality sleep.

“More religious adults in particular tend to have healthier sleep outcomes than their less religious counterparts,” the study authors wrote. They hypothesized that “religious involvement may be associated with healthier sleep outcomes by limiting mental, chemical and physiological arousal associated with psychological distress, substance use, exposure to stress. and allostatic load. [the combined physical effects of chronic stress]. “

At the same time, an article published in 2019 in the Journal for the scientific study of religion discussed data collected in a 2017 Baylor University survey that asked 1,410 people to comment on their sleep patterns and religious histories. The study found that people who attended church regularly slept longer, fell asleep more easily, and woke up more rested in the morning.

To explain these findings, the researchers emphasized the feelings of spiritual solidarity, a common sense of purpose, and charitable attitudes that emerge from regular exposure to the church home, family, friends, and the wider community. from the community.

“For all of these reasons, it’s plausible that regular devotees experience less restlessness as a result of negative life events and ultimately better quality sleep,” the researchers wrote.

Longer life expectancy

The results published in 2016 from the National Nurses’ Health Study in the United States revealed intriguing data on nurses who attend church.

More than 75,000 middle-aged nurses completed a survey that included information on how often they attended church between 1992 and 2012. This study showed that nurses who attended church were over once a week were 33% less likely to die during this time. -year of study than women who did not go to church at all. For women who attended church once a week, the benefit was 26%.

Even more impressive, a 2017 Vanderbilt University study found that middle-aged men and women (ages 40-65) who regularly attended church had a 55% lower risk of death during of a given year. They also encountered much less adverse health effects associated with exposure to chronic stress (like heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.).

This research project produced some wonderful revelations from interview subjects about why people attend church that helps explain the health benefits.

“We found out that they go to church for reasons other than social support,” said Marino Bruce, a social and behavioral scientist from Vanderbilt who is also a Baptist pastor. “This is where we start to think about this idea… of compassionate thinking, that we… are trying to improve the lives of others while being connected to a body larger than ourselves. “

I must point out that these are just a few examples of what can be found in the medical literature. Other studies show that regular church attendance can lower blood pressure, improve interpersonal relationships, and lower suicide rates, among the long list of possible benefits. While no one has studied the cumulative impact of church attendance and constant immersion in spiritual environments on church architects in particular, I can assure you that my personal experience aligns with these studies. fascinating.

The health benefits measured in these various studies all came from in-person church attendance, which raises an interesting question: Can people who attend church exclusively online experience the same type of benefits?

Since online participation is a relatively new concept, more research will need to be done to answer this question. But the health benefits seem unlikely to be so great, as the social aspect of church attendance is largely lost when people attend church virtually. In addition, the intensity of feelings produced by the services is inevitably reduced, as participants can no longer bask in a church environment that has been carefully designed to produce a spiritually immersive and religiously uplifting experience.

What is indisputable is that going to church in person, in the company of loved ones, and surrounded by friends, neighbors and the church community in general, is an effective form of medicine. You don’t need a prescription to get it, and the benefits it provides can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

Buddy Siebenlist is an architect specializing in church building and a resident of Tyler, Texas. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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