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Wednesday, 09 August 2017 07:01

The Church's Health

Written by  Bob Crittendon
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Some survey data shows that not only does church attendance help keep the church healthy, but it also can keep the people healthy!

 

Marino Bruce, a social and behavioral scientist from Vanderbilt University, as well as a Baptist minister, is a primary author of the study along with Keith Norris of UCLA. The study has nine other co-authors, too.  A piece on the USA Today website stated that the study “has found that people who attend religious services live longer and are less stressed.” Bruce is quoted as saying, “We found in our study that actually attending church is actually good for your health, particularly for those who are between the ages of 40 and 65...”

 

This is from the study that was published by the Plos One journal, entitled, “Church Attendance, Allostatic Load and Mortality in Middle Aged Adults.”  As USA Today puts it: “Specifically, the study says those middle-aged adults who go to church, synagogues, mosques or other houses of worship reduce their mortality risk by 55%.”

 

Bruce said, “For those who did not attend church at all, they were twice as likely to die prematurely than those who did attend church at some point over the last year...” He was also quoted as saying, “I’m ordained clergy so I’m always about what do we mean by our spiritual health. Does spiritual health matter with respect to biological outcomes?”

 

The USA Today article gave some background into the nuts and bolts of the study:

 

The researchers used publicly available data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, for the study. They filtered the data set, finding 5,449 participants of both sexes and all races.

 

They looked at the participants’ survey results, analyzing their worship attendance, mortality and allostatic load (AL), which is a physiological measurement. Higher allostatic loads were interpreted as a person experiencing more stress.

 

Here are some more scientific words from the Discussion section from the Plos One website:

 

In conclusion, we found a significant relationship between church attendance and mortality in middle-aged (≥40–65 yrs) adults NHANES III participants with an extended mean follow up time of 14 years. This relationship remained significant even after adjustment for education, poverty status, health insurance status, self-rated health, social support, and AL, suggesting a potential independent effect of religiosity on mortality. Similar findings were also noted in a secondary analysis of NHANES III participants ≥ 40 years old. Our results underscore the potential importance of church attendance as a surrogate for religiosity as a mediator of health and lifespan.

 

The article also says: “The increased attention to religiosity and other faith-related factors by health professionals and scientists is warranted by these findings and those from similar studies,” referring to the Plos One website. It added, “Results from this study contribute to the existing body of evidence and support the need for more rigorous prospective studies to explore causal relationships of religiosity and health.”

 

There are several relationships to explore here. Think first of all about, as Dr. Bruce referred to, “spiritual health” and its relationship with biological health.  I believe there is a distinct relationship.  The Bible talks about prospering and being in health - as your soul prospers.  That’s from 3rd John. Proverbs talks about the issues of life flowing from the heart, or the spirit.  If things are not right spiritually or emotionally, I think you can make the case that there may be physical manifestations. Stress is one factor that is consistently talked about, but there are many.  We can be challenged to maintain a healthy spirit; to make sure that our souls are being taken care of. 

 

There is also that central relationship from this study of church attendance and longer life, especially among so-called “middle age” adults.  I would even submit, in a non-scientific way, that church involvement among senior citizens can help lead to a longer life. We can be encouraged to not become sedentary in those latter years, but to remain active and connected with other believers.

 

I can definitely see it, especially for the Christian - as we expose ourselves to God’s Word, the words of life, and remain connected, it can feed our spirits and contribute to our overall well-being.

 

Also, Dr. Bruce said, “While churches are places where people can get social support, we actually found that and began to think about whether compassion is particularly important — feeling that you’re doing good or having empathy for others...” 

 

For the believer in Christ, we can have confidence that our personal relationship with Him and our interaction with fellow Christians through the local church can lead to a life that reflects proper spiritual – and perhaps even physical – health.

 

 

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 August 2017 07:11
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