New research says worship services might be just what the doctor ordered.
A recent study by Vanderbilt University professor Marino Bruce has found that people who attend religious services live longer and are less stressed. The findings held true across faith traditions, said Bruce, the associate director of Vanderbilt’s Center for Research on Men’s Health, in a video posted to the university's YouTube channel.
"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," said Bruce, who also is a Baptist minister.
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 percent. The Plos One journal published the "Church Attendance, Allostatic Load and Mortality in Middle Aged Adults" study May 16.
"For those who did not attend church at all, they were twice as likely to die prematurely than those who did who attended church at some point over the last year," Bruce said.
Bruce, a social and behavioral scientist, is a primary author of the study along with Keith Norris, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The study has nine other co-authors, too.
"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?" Bruce said.
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, which is a physiological measurement. Higher allostatic loads were interpreted as a person experiencing more stress.
The researchers also took social support into consideration since other studies have presumed that it was a key factor.
"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," Bruce said.
Reach Holly Meyer at email@example.com or 615-259-8241 and on Twitter @HollyAMeyer.