Optimistic? Attending services may be reason

November 10, 2011

Regular attendance at religious services is associated with a more optimistic outlook and a lesser inclination to be depressed, compared to those who do not attend services at all, according to a recently published study.

The study’s findings supports previous research that religious participation can promote psychological and physical health — and reduce mortality risks — possibly by calming people in stressful times, creating meaningful social interactions and helping curtail bad habits.

Those who said they attended services more than once a week in the previous month were 56 percent more likely to be above the median score in a measure of optimism than those who did not attend services, according to the study published in the Journal of Religion and Health.

And those who reported attending services weekly were 22 percent less likely to be depressed or have depressive symptoms compared to non-attenders.

But a researcher on the study cautioned against people assuming that adopting a religion and heading off to a church, synagogue, temple or mosque would brighten their lives.

“There is a correlation, but that does not mean there is causality,” said Eliezer Schnall, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Yeshiva University in New York. “One could argue people who are more optimistic may be drawn to religious services.

“The person who says, ‘I guess if I go to services, that will make me more optimistic’ — while a possibility, that may not be true,” he said.

Another caveat Schnall offered was that the study examined older women, so the benefits of religious activity may not apply to younger people or to males. Older women in particular have been shown in past research to engage in more social interaction at services, and to gain the most from it.

Schnall worked on a 2008 study of the same group of women that found those who attended religious services regularly reduced their risk of death by 20 percent over the follow-up period that averaged nearly eight years.

“We’re trying to connect the dots here,” he said. “We know they’re less likely to die, and health outcomes can be related to psychological factors.”

Read the full story here …

4 comments

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“…the study’s findings supports previous research that religious participation can promote psychological and physical health — and reduce mortality risks — possibly by calming people in stressful times, creating meaningful social interactions and helping curtail bad habits.” In my opinion such a study might find that periodic meetings of chocoholics for tastings would do all but the last. Such “changes” are largely of perspective, not reality. Religion has produced few, if any positive changes to the “world we live in”.

It was Daniel J. Boorstin who said: “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.” The great majority of religions have consistently redirected man’s attention from the world in which he lives for a limited time. They divert countless hours and $ suggesting the possibility of endless existence in a mythical paradise of infinite perfection and wisdom. Our educated seem no less gullible.

Magicians today do the same when they focus our attention to the hand that is NOT deceiving us. An infinite future without want or death is the ultimate prize to offer all whose mortal lives are dull, short and without promise. It simultaneously relieves both leaders and followers of the otherwise implicit obligation to learn to work together here on this earth to make life better HERE. All burdens and failures in life lose their sting.

This is why, after thousands of years, man STILL hasn’t figured out how to “play well with others”. AA (and many others) are fond of the saying: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Is the wisdom any less if we substitute the word “optimism” (as used in this article) for “insanity”?

Every day you and I do things that to our parents and grandparents were genuinely impossible. Americans living below the “poverty line” have unlimited pure, clean water, sanitation, food choices, clothing heat, cooling, transportation, music and entertainment far, far in excess of that of kings and queens a few hundred years ago. Life today in a modern city is one of comparitive bounty. It has definitely changed for the better.

The personal computer now available to the masses has replaced the Oracle of old as a shortcut to wisdom for the discerning. Man has sequenced not only the human genome, but that of extinct animals. The first human to live to be 1000 years old may already have been born!

I think it’s time humans accepted the responsibility of changing their instincts and nature for the better. It’s time to begin the process of defining and building our own even better future and “eternity” with our own hands and minds? In time perhaps even envy, anger and jealousy can be transcended by mere mortal effort(s). I genuinely hope so.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

The study’s findings supports PREVIOUS research that religious participation can promote psychological and physical health — and reduce mortality risks — possibly by calming people in stressful times, creating meaningful social interactions and helping curtail bad habits-here’s just some of the benefits this side of heaven folks!

Time Magazine interview with Einstein in his 50s:

To what extent are you influenced by Christianity? “As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled
by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”
Do you accept the historical existence of Jesus? “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life!

Check out: “Why I Believe” by Chip Ingram, Living on the Edge, Atlanta 1999! Best intellectually honest piece I’ve found in a lifetime of search! Search archives-should be free or dirt cheap to download, about 4 hrs-YOU’LLL LOVE IT! ONLY GOD!

Posted by DrJJJJ | Report as abusive

Oneofthesheep,
Religious belief hasn’t stopped all those advancements in civilization, quite the opposite. Faith really does move mountains. Anyway, you sound like such a bitter old crab and that is for sure the biggest reason religion thrives. Nobody with any sense wants to live that way.

Posted by Fern | Report as abusive

Fern,

Religious “advancements in civilization” like the Crusades, the creation of the Church of England, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, giving blankets infected with smallpox to American Indians to reduce their numbers, forciing Galileo to recant his discoveries, etc. etc. I’m sure I missed some, but you gave NONE.

Please post the date of the next scheduled “mountain moving”. I’d like to watch…sounds better than dynamite bringing down old buildings, and THAT’S cool!

Bitter? It’s my message, not yours, that expresses hope for man’s future on Earth. At seventy+ years, I’m a very satisfied and content person married almost 48 years to a wonderful lady who happens to “believe”. We respect each other. You might try that sometime.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive