Religious Elderly Tend to Live Longer

Senior citizens who attend religious services may live longer than those who do not attend services, even after differences in age, health, physical functioning, psychological well being, and social support are taken into account. Previous studies of younger adults have found that those who participate in religious activities tend to have lower blood pressure, lower rates of heart disease, fewer symptoms of depression, and lower mortality than those who do not participate.

The benefits may be partly due to the emphasis many religious teachings place on respecting the body, researchers have suggested. Consequently, religious individuals may be more likely to take better care of themselves. Psychological and social factors may also contribute, since participating in religious group activities is likely to enhance social support, and social support has been shown to enhance mental health and health in general.

American Journal of Public Health 1998;88:1469-1475.

COMMENT: It is wonderful to observe that when we plant seeds of good health, like attending religious services, we reap harvests of good physical health. The study does not address the more important spiritual benefits that such practices develop.

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