Being religious may not make you healthier after all

February 8, 2010

A number of studies over the past two decades have shown that religious people tend to be healthier. But a new study suggests that when it comes to heart disease and clogged arteries, attending religious services or having spiritual experiences may not protect against heart attacks and strokes.

This study suggests “there’s not a lot of extra burden or extra protection afforded by this particular aspect of people’s lives,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, who led the study, published in the journal Circulation.


In their review of data from nearly 5,500 people who were part of another study, Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues — one of whom, Matthew Feinstein, is a Northwestern medical student who suggested the research — expected to see less risk for heart disease among those with more “religiosity.”

Neither the rate of heart disease events, nor the number of certain risk factors — such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure — differed among those who were more or less religious or spiritual. The only exceptions: Those who went to religious services, otherwise prayed or meditated, or were highly spiritual were more likely to be obese, and less likely to smoke.

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(PHOTO: Shinto priest Masamitsu Nakagawa, 95, jogs as part of a warm-up before bathing in ice-cold water)

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