From Chuck Dinerstein at American Council for Science and Health:
There is increasing evidence that a correlation exists between a person’s social support and engagement and their longevity. At a bare minimum, it makes sense because it is challenging to manage chronic disease or recovery from hospitalization on your own. A new study looks at religious participation as a marker for that social integration and to avoid the bias of self-reported religious activity; the researchers measured religious involvement noted in obituaries. (Of course, they might also have induced a bit of bias on the report of grieving family members writing those obituaries)
There is a clear link between attendance at religious services and social support, even the number of close friends. Involvement in any group activity in the long-term fosters more social relationships. One theory, religion as a social value, suggests that being religious in a region where religion is socially valued may confer a halo of benefits, primarily stress reduction. The hypothesis tested by the researchers was that religious affiliation noted within obituaries would confer a survival benefit beyond that already conferred by marital status and gender. More.
Apparently, it did. … the religiously affiliated lived 9.45 and 5.64 years longer …
Abstract:Self-reported religious service attendance has been linked with longevity. However, previous work has largely relied on self-report data and volunteer samples. Here, mention of a religious affiliation in obituaries was analyzed as an alternative measure of religiosity. In two samples (N = 505 from Des Moines, IA, and N = 1,096 from 42 U.S. cities), the religiously affiliated lived 9.45 and 5.64 years longer, respectively, than the nonreligiously affiliated. Additionally, social integration and volunteerism partially mediated the religion–longevity relation. In Study 2, exploratory analyses suggested that the religion–longevity association was moderated by city-level religiosity and city-level personality. In cities with low levels of trait openness, the nonreligiously affiliated had reduced longevity in highly religious cities relative to less religious cities, consistent with the religion-as-social-value hypothesis. Conversely, in cities with high levels of openness, the opposite trend was observed, suggesting a spillover effect of religion. The religiously affiliated were less influenced by these cultural factors. (paywall) Laua . Wallace et al., Does Religion Stave Off the Grave? Religious Affiliation in One’s Obituary and Longevity Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2018 DOI: 10.1177/1948550618779820 More.
Other studies have suggested the same thing. It really should not be a surprise. If a faith group 1) forbids or severely limits drinking, smoking, and drug-taking and encourages regular (disciplined, not extreme) fasting, 2) encourages adherents to be good to their families and active in the community, and 3) insists on respect and care for elderly and disabled people, who are expected to remain an active part of the community as long as possible
there is no perceived impact on the faithful adherents’ longevity…
… something must wrong with our generally accepted beliefs about health!
Of course, we would need to test that thesis against religious groups that promote a recklessly hedonistic approach to life. The difficulty is, we will likely find few surviving ones. 😉
See also: Anomaly: Human mortality hits a plateau after 105 years of age From Discover Magazine: “ That is, you aren’t any more likely to die at 110 than at 105. It’s a contradictory finding, because mortality ticks steadily upward as we get older at all previous ages.”