Select Page

“Religion” gets criticized and mocked, but nobody (not even science) can deny it can be good for you. For starters, a study of more than 1,500 newspaper obituaries from across the U.S. shows it can help you live 9.45 years longer than non-spiritual folks.

But this finding doesn’t come as a surprise.

People of Faith Are More Likely To Practice Safe Sex

A report published in the Lancet has found that the fastest-growing risk factor for illness in young women from 10 to 24 years old is unsafe sex.

While most of its repercussions are preventable and treatable, they don’t always come with visible symptoms. Some people even have cryptic pregnancies where they go through the 9-month period not knowing that they’re with child! Planned or unplanned, not being careful about STDs and the other consequences of unsafe sex could lead to death.

The good news is that higher levels of religious commitment are associated with fewer sexual partners, abstinence, and a lower tendency to practice casual sex. Since religious affiliations are linked to less risk-taking behavior, even young men who have sex with men (YMSM) have decreased HIV-related risks, helping prevent morbidity and mortality.

A Spiritual Practice Reduces Stress

Stress is a silent killer. It affects you physically, making you susceptible to health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. It also manifests psychologically, resulting in irritability, fatigue, exhaustion, aggression, and more.

All in all, it makes living feel like a chore.

This is where a faith practice might create an advantage. Regularly or periodically indulging in a spiritual practice can tame stress, including:

  • Meditation: a relaxation technique that brings a sense of peace to your life. Transcendental meditation has been shown to decrease the rate of cardiovascular mortality by 30% and the rate of mortality from cancer by 49%.
  • Prayer: The act of seeking God’s favor can have a positive effect on the future of individuals. In a 2005 study conducted on cancerous patients, a significant relationship between praying and life expectancy was established.

In addition, people of faith also practice gratitude even in the face of trials. They’re thankful and appreciative of all that they have and are grateful to their creator for blessing them with tools that improve their lives and themselves. It helps them deal more effectively with stress, which can increase life expectancy.

People of Faith Engage in Volunteer Activities

Volunteerism, a selfless act where you offer your time and labor with no expectation of receiving anything in return, has surprising health benefits. It can boost your mood, make you feel happier, lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure, decrease your risk of dementia, and help you connect with like-minded individuals.

Most importantly, it adds years to your life!

The Longitudinal Study of Aging (LSOA) found that frequent volunteers lived significantly longer than non-volunteers when the effects of medical status, socio-demographics, physical activity, and social integration were controlled.

Volunteering and giving donations to the poor are common practices in the lives of religious folks. Forty-five percent of people who pray daily and attend services weekly say they volunteered in the past week. This is in stark contrast with those who are not highly religious, with only 28% of the population volunteering in the past 7 days.

This could be one reason why religious affiliation is linked to longer lifespans.

People of Faith Tend to Be Happier

For all the flak they receive, religious people are happier and live longer.

A study conducted on 2 epidemiologic groups of men and women found that participants who had higher levels of optimism had greater odds of living to the age of 85. These results remained favorable even after health behaviors were adjusted.

A multilevel regression analysis suggests that religious folks tend to be happier and more satisfied with life than those who don’t belong or believe in a faith. This is backed by a Pew Research Center report, which showed that 36% of the actively religious individuals describe themselves as “very happy” compared to 25% of the inactively religious or unaffiliated. However, striking gaps exist across countries.

People of Faith Might Live “Cleaner” Lives

Some religious doctrines prohibit the use of alcohol and drugs.

Since chronic use of alcohol—more than 25 drinks a week—can shorten your life expectancy by 4 to 5 years, and smoking can lower it by at least 10 years compared to non-smokers, limiting or avoiding them can help one live longer.

For example, more than 6 in 10 Americans drink alcohol, 19% of whom sometimes overindulge in a drink. However, people who actively practice their religion are less likely to engage in this behavior. Twenty-two percent of them believe that booze is morally wrong and “sinful,” despite alcohol being an important part of the Christian religion. Evangelical protestants (23%), protestants (16%), and Catholics (15%) share this belief.

It’s the same case for smoking.

In 2020, 22.3% of the global population used tobacco—a substance that robs you of your health, causes severe and debilitating conditions like lung disease, and kills half of its users. Fortunately, having any sort of religious affiliation is saving the majority. Religious ethics has been found to have a restraining effect on tobacco use.

Methodist and Seventh-day Adventist Churches recommend abstinence, but Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken it a step further: no smoking since 1973!

Take the Faithful Road and You’ll Be Blessed With Longevity

If you’re a spiritual person, science points to the fact that steadfastly holding on to your faith can contribute to a longer life. Even if you aren’t inclined to believe in a higher power, you can still benefit from adopting a religious way of life.

So, volunteer, do good deeds, live a cleaner life, and find ways to curb and combat stress. At the same time, be more careful when it comes to engaging in sex. Regardless of your spiritual life and beliefs, these habits can help your health and longevity.