Are Churchgoers Healthier?Mental Health
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
You probably go to your doctor, or maybe even Google, for health-related questions and concerns. But did you know that your local church may be a great vehicle for delivering health information and benefits to the communities they serve? For people who regularly attend church, it is a natural point of reference, a place of trust, comfort and consistency.
Of course you should always seek professional medical care, but the church may be a great environment for providing supplemental support through health and wellness seminars and workshops.
“It is not a new idea for churches to develop health programs whose purpose is to have an impact upon the most significant health risks and crippling health conditions in congregations,” reports the United Church of Christ (UCC).
“However, it is an increasingly important one as health care funding and services gradually shrink. Local churches can help address the need for more appropriate and accessible health care services and the inadequacy of our healthcare system.”
Churches may also provide strong social support by helping alleviate stress and improving mental health.
One recent study found evidence that attending church lowered stress and ultimately all-cause mortality in middle-aged (40-65 years) adults. A total of 5,449 participants were involved in the study and 64% were churchgoers, while 36% were not.
Results revealed that frequent churchgoers, (people who attended church more than once a week), had a 55% reduction of all-cause mortality risk compared to the people who did not attend church services.
In addition to this, the study reported that “[b]aseline characteristics revealed churchgoers had a better socioeconomic and health behavior profile. Specifically, they were more likely to have higher levels of educational attainment, lower levels of poverty, increased physical activity, reduced rates of smoking and drinking, and a healthier eating index. More than 50% of the churchgoers reported they had ‘Excellent/Very Good Health.’”
“Thus, the effect of religiosity or church attendance on health may be mediated in part by a healthy lifestyle, social cohesion or other factors such as mitigating stress.”
Furthermore, “[h]ealth benefits of religiosity may also be attributed, in part, to its impact on two less commonly cited domains, compassion and a sense of holiness. Compassion has a long history of association with religiosity and has been reported to mediate some of the psychosocial health benefits of religiosity and social relationships through its related generosity and altruism, as well as reducing stress and/or enhancing coping skills,” according to the study.
Another study involving nearly 75,000 middle-aged female nurses found that the ones who attended religious services had a 33% lower all-cause mortality compared to the ones who had never attended religious services.
“Religion and spirituality may be an underappreciated resource that physicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate.” the study reports.
Attending church may also be a very effective way to combat depression. Going to church may lower suicide rates in women.
And last but certainly not least, religious services may be beneficial to you by providing support beyond the realm of just physical health.
“For many, health is narrowly defined and specifically targeted to one dimension—the physical. Health consists of five dimensions—physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual. An individual is considered healthy when all of these dimensions are working together in harmony,” reports the United Church of Christ (UCC).
“Because healing does not necessarily mean curing (as we tend to think), a Health Ministry in a congregation involves emotional, mental and spiritual healing which can occur during illness even when curing of the disease is not present.”
We have to be proactive about preventing diseases like obesity, cancer, diabetes and dementia, but according to UCC there are also those “diseases that often go undetected until it is too late—sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, lovelessness, insecurities, personal guilt and persecution, abandonment, discouragement, low self-esteem and image, stress, depression, and a broken heart (to name a few). These are symptoms of pending disability and serious health change if they continue to go undetected. These are the diseases that we often cannot readily observe.”
“It is in the context of these often ‘undetected’ diseases that the emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of health must further emerge. It is in these three dimensions that the church must take the lead role.”
Ultimately, the biggest takeaway from all of this is the value of depending on each other for support. Clearly being proactive about our health together appears to have a very positive influence.
If you are not religious or a churchgoer, you can still join supportive or spiritual groups that offer the same sense of community and support. You do not have to be alone on your journey to optimal health.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.