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Believe in God; Live Longer

Recently, I came upon a scientific study that shows, on average, people of faith in all religions live longer than their counterparts, i.e., people who do not believe in a faith or a religion. The original study I came upon did not list the religion. Still, it was conducted in the U.S., so I am assuming that the results were based on a Christian lifestyle, although the statistics might include recipients from Judaism and even Islam. The study did not indicate any religion, just whether the person was a member of a religious organization or not. However, I was intrigued by the results that I started looking for other studies along the same lines, and there are numerous studies with similar conclusions.

Study 1: Ohio State University

Researchers from Ohio State University started with an analysis of 505 obituaries printed in a major newspaper in a Midwest city in the United States. From the obits, the researchers noted the gender, age, religious affiliation, marital status, and volunteer history of the deceased person. A simple linear regression without taking out the demographic variables showed that the pious among the sample lived more than nine years longer than those without religious affiliation. Some of the demographics could explain this longevity. We all know married couples live longer than single adults, especially men. We also know that women live five to seven years longer than men. People who do volunteer work have a purpose in life and have a social network. Once the impact of those variables was filtered out, the results of this study showed that people who belonged to a religion lived more than six years longer than people who had no faith.

The second part of this study was more extensive. Nearly 1,100 obituaries published in 42 major cities in the U.S. over a yearlong period were examined. Again, using linear regression, filtering out the demographic variables brought the longevity down to 3.8 years. Each study has a Discussion section. In this one, variables that affect the outcome are identified: First, different variables that affect longevity were determined and filtered out of the equation. Second, additional variables that religion encourages were identified as adding longevity.

Variables that lengthen life:

  • Marriage versus being single (married men live longer than single men)

  • Gender (females live longer)

  • Volunteerism and involvement in social organizations (social networks)

Variables that are part of religious practices:

  • Stress-reducing practices – prayer, meditation, religious study

  • Restrict destructive behaviors such as – drinking intoxicants, non-prescription drugs, and having sex with many partners.

  • A sense of purpose – the belief that provides people with a sense that the world is predictable, which makes adherents feel more in control of their outcomes.

More study needs to be conducted on these variables and how they affect people. If you want to read the study, its title is “Does Religion Stave Off the Grave? Religious Affiliation in One’s Obituary and Longevity.” The lead researcher is Laura Wallace, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6/13/2018.

Other studies:

One Gallup study in 2007 conducted in 145 countries showed that adherents of all the major religions who attended religious services regularly (at least twice a month) have higher rates of generosity, volunteerism, and helping strangers.

In 2011, a Chinese study of 9,000 elder citizens (85+) showed that the risk of dying was 24 percent lower among frequent religious participants than nonparticipants. A parallel survey of 7,000 senior citizens (65+) showed the risk of death was 12 percent lower for the spiritual.

A 1997 study analyzed a 28-year association between religious attendance and mortality. Using statistical regression models to analyze data from 5,286 respondents, survey results showed that people with higher religious participation had lower mortality rates. The conclusion suggested that religious participation encouraged improved health practices (smoking cessation, increased exercise), increased social contacts and more stable marriages.

And finally, one study has implications for Christianity and Islam. The study is titled “The Religion Paradox: If religion makes people happy, why are so many dropping out?” This study was published in 2011 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In a previous article I published in January 22, 2022 (“Ex-Muslims in the Mosque”), I wrote that according to Pew Research, in the United States, some 23 percent of people raised as Christians changed their religion, as well as 22 percent of Muslims. When religious freedom is high, many people leave the religion in which they grew up. This study corroborates this trend not only in Christianity and Islam but in Buddhism and Hinduism. Nations and states with more challenging life conditions, such as hunger and low life expectancy, were more likely to be highly religious. In less developed countries, religiosity was associated with greater social support, respect, purpose, or meaning. In wealthier nations, that religiosity is not there. Thus people leave the religion seeking that social support, purpose, and meaning of life in other venues. Is this what the less developed nations must look out for? As countries grow more developed, they will gradually move away from God? If you look at the U.S. as an example, that is what is happening. At least for some people that is the case.

In conclusion

If you believe in God, your life has a purpose. You will live longer and be happier.

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