I was speaking with my father today and he was talking about his friends from work who were over 90 and getting close to 100. He said that all of them were deeply religious. His non-religious colleagues seemed to have all passed in their 70s. The older I get, the more it seems to make sense as it seems like religion may be a safety valve of sorts. When tough times, stress, and anxiety come, you offer it up to God and it doesn’t affect you as much. It could also lead to a greater purpose in life. It’s an interesting N=1 anecdote, but there seems to be a real connection to longevity here.
A recent study finds that people who regularly attend religious services live approximately four years longer than average. Researchers built the study from previous data suggesting that social interaction, volunteer work, and healthy habits can lead to a longer life.
I don’t think it’s necessary to be religious, it’s enough to be spiritual. In Israel the happiest group is apparently the orthodox jews, so religion or spirituality probably has an effect on happiness.
One hears a lot about benefits of religion. However in my opinion spirituality is the key and not religion. Spirituality is the opposite of religion because it is about experience. I think religion is only about believing in something. And this may be hard for scientifically minded people. For instance meditation is about research and experience of your own mind. I think this is much more interessting and has a vast spiritual dimension. And benefits in health and wellbeeing were shown for meditation. Just my view…
What is “own mind”? Are you sure that “own” is an accurate adjective? Your mind could be part of a universal consciousness. Some call it God. Some call it Creator. It doesn’t matter imo if it’s a religion or spirituality. Both seem to be beneficial for general well-being.
I think it is a sense of purpose that promotes longevity. Religious belief provides that sense of purpose. “Spirituality” and “happiness” do not provide a sense of purpose, although happiness can be a product of having a sense of purpose. Non-religious “happiness” is merely about “what feels good right now” which is not sustainable in the long term because as you get older, for various reasons, it’s increasingly difficult to “feel good right now”.
I’m sure there’s something there. However one doesn’t take up religion so as to live longer. Although our capacity for adopting self serving delusional beliefs never ceases to amaze me, I don’t think such a clearly “mercenary” mental transaction can stand.
Way more beneficial than any effect on longevity is not living in fear of death if you strongly believe in an afterlife. In any case, I have no idea what comes after but I don’t expect Jeezus to save me. The fantasies I hear here and there, even on this forum, of living forever, I find a bit off putting. Death is something we all need to submit to in the end. I want to buy myself all the extra time I can, to see more, learn more, meet great grandchildren, and otherwise get my shit together before I meet the grim reaper. I’ll take 120-150 if anyone is dishing it out. But I have no ambition to become an immortal cancer cell.
Yes - I suspect the benefit is mostly in avoiding loneliness, having strong social ties, and having a sense of purpose…
Support for the Inner Self
Even people who don’t describe themselves as religious probably can benefit from some of the lessons uncovered by research into spirituality and aging, says Harry R. Moody, Ph.D., a gerontologist and author of The Five Stages of the Soul.
“The message isn’t ‘Go back to church and you’ll live a long time,’ but stay connected with people on your own wavelength,” says Moody, until recently the director of the Brookdale Center on Aging at Hunter College in New York City.
This could mean, for example, joining small prayer groups not associated with any church, trying personal meditation, writing your life story, searching inside for personal meaning in life as you age and face death, remaining optimistic about life even if age and illness take their toll, and forging social connections with family, friends and others.
“You have to discover what is your subjective way of coping with life and tap into it,” Moody says.
spirituality and religion are two different aspects. both play a part in my life as a practicing catholic.
inner peace is key. as I believe stress is an untold killer. my uncle almost died of heart attack in his mid 50s, and is a fairly healthy guy but I believe chasing his businesses caused a lot of stress, which affected.
as a practicing catholic I pray to god to help me on my decisions with my medicines so that im not on the wrong path, but I think thats a fairly futile endeavor as he sends us down here to experience what he has for us and takes us when he wants us.
ultimately I believe stress has to have smoking like affects on the body. heal from your past and live each moment care free, added years
Yes, I am a practicing Catholic too. I take some time every day to pray and offer everything up to God. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders when I do that. I realize that any problems I have are not that bad and that God is there by my side. I guess you could say it is the best stress reliever I have found. I’ll also pray in a conversational way with God when I have spare time.
He is also the main focus when I practice centering. Whenever I feel anxious, worried, or overwhelmed by any negative emotion, I block everything out. Then I place God at the center and continue to add all the things I am grateful for to that starting with my family members, job, resources, friends, etc… Until I end up being thankful for everything I have and it makes the original trouble seem insignificant in comparison and the stress goes away. I then pray and thank Him for it all.
Then there’s the community. Some of my best friends (including several doctors in HK) I met at Church. They have been a great boon to me and my life in terms of medical advice and a social outlet. Also, my current career was started by a Catholic friend who got me in the door at their company. It also helps that my wife and family are Catholic as well and it provides a bonding experience for all of us.
In addition, many of the people I meet at church (not all) are more genuine than most of the people I meet elsewhere. My pet peeve is “fake people”. There are myriad advantages to my being Catholic and believing in God and these are just some of them. Will it help me live longer? I firmly believe so. You may want to give it a try. It helps with healthspan (happiness) too.
I’m breaking a cardinal rule of mine to not talk religion or politics so go easy on me please! I converted to Orthodox Christianity recently after exploring different religions for most of my adult life. I came very close to becoming Catholic in the mid 90’s but my first husband refused to annul his previous marriage so I wasn’t confirmed.
After that I spent many years devastated, jaded, miserable and sporadically tried different paths and churches but nothing ever clicked. When covid hit and I was close to rock bottom due to stress from working the front lines I read something written by an Orthodox monastic that helped me tremendously and the rest is history so to speak. One thing I noticed right away was how healthy and glowing nearly everyone seemed. There’s definitely a lot of fasting days on the calendar. I think many of the ancient faiths have fasting as an important aspect of the spiritual life which I’m sure to a certain extent is helpful.
Primarily what it’s done in my life is help me be the best version of myself I can be, reframe situations, see the positive (and what i can personally do in my own small way in negative situations to make things better), and to work towards not judging others. I get a lot of peace from it as well. This has been quite odd/ironic for me as someone who literally couldn’t stand religion/religious people for a long time. I have an expanded group of people in my life that I genuinely care about and I feel they care about me as well. I really don’t think I could go back even if I wanted to which I don’t. To me this is all very different from the rational scientific perspective, defies logic and is predominantly a mystery which I’m totally fine with for myself but completely understand that that isn’t the case for many people.
@blsm Thank you for sharing your experiences. Religion is a touchy subject for some, but it has shown a lot of benefits for longevity that I believe have merit. As long as we keep to this topic, it should be OK and others can choose to read or block the posts here as they see fit.
Personally, religion has helped me immensely. If I wasn’t religious, I would have probably made some very bad choices. For one, I’d probably be divorced right now instead of working things out with my wife. I’d probably be more stressed out and lonely. Fortunately, with God, I never feel that I am alone or lonely. There is always a friend there to listen to me and surprisingly everything tends to work out. There have even been a couple personal miracles in my life that I credit Him for.
I can’t give my faith up and I would never want to try as He is a source of love and joy in my life that brings me immeasurable happiness.
“Non-religious “happiness” is merely about “what feels good right now” which is not sustainable in the long term because as you get older, for various reasons, it’s increasingly difficult to “feel good right now””
Whoa! This is so wrong on so many levels!
It is well established that happiness tends to increase with age.
The happiest populations around the world tend to be non-religious.
Perhaps the longevity benefit of “religion” is due to this, from a new study out of the UK:
Frequently seeing friends and family may cut the risk of early death
People who socialise regularly with friends or family outside their household live longer than those who never do, according to a study in more than 450,000 people in the UK
After adjusting for factors including age, sex, physical activity level, socioeconomic status and chronic health conditions, the researchers found that all five types of social connection impacted longevity. The frequency of visits from friends and family had the greatest influence. On average, people whose friends or family never visited had a 39 per cent increased risk of dying during the study period compared with those whose loved ones visited daily. Even those who didn’t live alone had a 25 per cent greater risk of death in this time if friends or family never visited. Participation in weekly group activities didn’t mitigate these effects, either.
In my simple mind, the reason why faith has a positive effect comes down to two main factors:
when you become religious you forgo the hate part against your actual or perceived enemies, and we all know how self-destructive it is to hate someone or hold a permanent grudge on someone.
you believe that you will never be alone in your struggles, i.e. God is there with you. True or not I wouldn’t dare to guess, but it is a fact that there is no harsher feeling than being alone and helpless when you are going through a difficult situation.
Obviously, this is a very unjust and abbreviated explanation, yet I believe that the root of all evil for us humans lol lies on these two things.
Intelligent people don’t just live in “right now”, they plan for the future. They are aware that some actions taken to achieve happiness “right now” can lead to negative consequences in the future. They are aware that some actions that don’t make them happy “right now” (e.g., working, studying) lead to greater success and happiness in the future.
Disagree. I am skeptical of how “happiness” is measured in these cases. My experience with people in their 70s and 80s is that their happiness declines due to physical and mental stresses, and unless they have a strong sense of purpose they have a tendency, at some point, to give up and die.