It’s something a lot of us have known for a while, but now there’s scientific proof of a connection:
People who go to religious services routinely are 56% more likely to view life positively and 27% less likely to have symptoms of depression, researchers from Yeshiva University reported in the Journal of Religion and Health. The authors added that those who attend services every week tend to be less cynical too.
The researchers based their study on the “Women’s Health Initiative” observational study involving 92,539 postmenopausal females. These older women came from a wide range of society including several income levels, ethnic backgrounds and religions. The researchers deliberately did not verify the women’s religions.
Lead researcher, Eliezer Schnall, said:
“We looked at a number of psychological factors; optimism, depression, cynical hostility, and a number of subcategories and subscales involving social support and social strain.The link between religious activity and health is most evident in women, specifically older women.”
Schnall added that they concentrated on this group of people because females have longer lifespans than men, and seniors are a growing group.
The researchers mentioned several aspects of support which likely contribute to people’s attitude, such as being able to sit with a priest, minister or rabbi and talk about things (informational and emotional support), being taken to get to see a doctor by somebody (tangible support), as well as affectionate support and a positive interaction between parishioners.
The lead researcher, however, concludes with this caveat:
“The person who says, ‘I guess if I go to services, that will make me more optimistic’ – while a possibility, that may not be true. There is a correlation, but that does not mean there is causality. One could argue people who are more optimistic may be drawn to religious services.”