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Research shows priests and religious live longer

New research shows that priests and religious live longer, with Benedictine monks having a mortality rate almost half that of the laity.

Researchers who looked at the mortality rate data for religious professionals in the UK, Europe and America, found that in all cases, the rates were lower than those of the average population.

The data is based on standardised mortality rates or SMRs of the clergy compared to those of the same age, sex, and race in the population.

In almost all the data studied, the SMR for the clergy was below 90% which means that 10% fewer clergy died than did ordinary people.

In some clergy, Benedictine monks, Baptist ministers, Lutheran Ministers, Episcopal Priests, Presbyterian ministers, and catholic nuns, the mortality rate was at least 25% lower than the general population.

The researchers, reporting in the Journal of Religion and Health this week, found that many of the religious groups had far less disease, including heart disease and cancer, than other people.

The report details the case of Italian nuns who had taken a vow of silence. Women living in nearby towns showed the typical increase in blood pressure associated with age, but the nuns' blood pressure remained virtually the same for the 30-year study.

Tradition predisposes the sisters to refrain from medication, or even from complaining about health problems. The majority also avoid physical examinations.

Journal of Religion and Health

Independent (London)

18 Jun 2002