Study says churchgoers live longer
Regular attendance at religious services has been shown to decrease death rates among old people, with a US study revealing churchgoers have lower blood pressure, less depression and anxiety, and stronger immune systems.
The research looked at 4000 elderly people from North Carolina, and found that of the 1177 who died during a six-year period, 22.9% were frequent church attenders, compared with 37.4 who were infrequent attenders.
Similar results were produced by the University of California at Berkeley in a study of some 5000 people aged 21 to 65. Those who attended religious services at least once a week had a 23% lower risk of dying over the 28 years on which the research was based.
Dr Harold Koenig, from the Duke University Medical Centre, said: "Participating in religious services is associated with significant health benefits in elderly people, even when you take into account the fact the religious people tend to start out with better health practices and more social support."
Researachers suggest that those closely involved in church life would have a larger social network, and hence more social support, and that churchgoers are less likely to fall back on harmful habits such as drinking or smoking.
However, another study from the University of Parma in Italy found that devout Catholics are more likely to show symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The study compared nuns and priests with committed lay Catholics and others with virtually no religious involvement.
The researchers explained that religious devotion in early life does not necessarily cause obsessive-compulsive disorder. Rather, it's likely that people with those character traits feel more drawn to religion and devote themselves to God.
True faith really does save lives, say doctors
30 May 2002