New Harvard Study: Women Live Longer if They Go to Church

Women who attend church regularly have a lower mortality rate, a new study shows.

By Nancy Flory Published on May 16, 2016

A new Harvard study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that women who regularly attend church services live longer. In the study, titled “Association of Religious Service Attendance With Mortality Among Women,” researchers found that women who attended church more than once per week had a 33% lower mortality rate, compared with women who never attended church.

The self-reported research took place over a 20-year period and investigated the church-going habits of 74,534 women who participated in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study. The average baseline age of the women studied was 60 and most were Catholic or Protestant.

Tyler VanderWeele, Harvard professor and author of the study, said church attendance was an under-appreciated health resource. “Religious attendance is a relatively good determinant of health,” he said.

Women who attended church regularly were more optimistic, had greater social support, lower rates of depression and were less likely to smoke. VanderWeele also found that the women suffered less from anxiety.

Reuters reported that,

Overall, frequent religious attendance was associated with a 27 percent lower likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 21 percent lower risk of death from cancer. Frequent attendance was also associated with significantly less risk of breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

VanderWeele said that while studies like his cannot prove cause and effect, “That we had data on both service attendance and health repeatedly over time helps provide evidence about the direction of causality.”

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