Want to live longer? Then go to church. Here’s the facts. Posted on June 28, 2018June 28, 2018 by Peter Meadows Regular churchgoers tend to live longer. That’s what a deluge of recent research reveals. So, if you are likely to be in church on a Sunday, expect to be attending more funerals than your non-churchgoing friends. Because, on average, you could outlive them by several years. This is what research is telling us. And though it’s mainly from the US, there’s every reason believe it stacks up here too. Take, for example, the analysis of over 1,600 newspapers obituaries – the basis of one US research initiative. It revealed those with a church or religious affiliation had lived on average over 6 years longer than those without. Then there’s the study of over 1,000 obituaries from across the United States. This found a similar though slightly smaller effect. Those perceived to be religious had ‘only’ lived almost 4 years longer. Even more impressive is a research project by the University of Iowa. By the end of the 12 year study: 35 per cent of the non-church attenders had died Only 14.5 percent of the church attenders had died To put it simply, this research shows that if you are a weekly church attender you are 35 per cent more likely to live longer than those never darkening its doors. Of course, you may wonder if these researchers naively made their comparison between a group of church goers who’d spent abstemious lives and some hedonistic smokers and drinkers. But, they insist, this was all factored in by examining a control group of equally healthy non-attenders. The research also found churchgoers enjoyed a boost to their immune system and had less clogged arteries and high blood pressure. Though it made no reference to the impact a church can have on blood pressure no matter your age. Don’t go there! Another piece of solid research, this time from Harvard, tracked 75,000 middle-age female nurses every four years between 1992 and 2012. How’s that for thorough?! It revealed the more frequently the women attended church the longer their lives. Specifically, during the 20 year study, compared with those who said they never went to church – Those attending more than weekly were at a 33 per cent lower risk of dying Those attending weekly had 26 per cent lower risk of dying Those attending less than weekly had a 13 per cent lower risk of dying Why might churchgoers be likely to have a few extra years at their disposal? This research from Harvard offered nothing conclusive to suggest it was religious activity – such as prayer and reading the Bible – that lengthened years. Rather they pointed to churchgoers finding it easier to maintain a healthy social network, especially in later life. With there being evidence that loneliness shortens life and friendships extend it. Those behind the Iowa study equally admit they don’t know for sure. They accept those more frequently at church may have ‘better health behaviours’. Or it might be down to ‘the group interaction, the world view churchgoers have, or just the exercise to get out of the house.’ Be that as it may, what they are convinced about is ‘There’s something that seems to be beneficial.’ And even to the extent that one of the report’s co-authors suggested doctors could prescribe a course of church attendance to their benefit patients. So there we have it. Just doing the right thing – spending time with God’s people on a regular basis – is likely to offer more years to enjoy and to serve. Let’s use them wisely and well. Peter Meadows Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance. Want to make the most of your extra after-work years? Then do explore our website and join our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you.