Sunday, November 20, 2011

Study links regular religious service attendance, outlook on life

A new study shows that attending religious services regularly can mean a more optimistic, less depressed, and less cynical outlook on life.

In a follow-up to its 2008 report that found that attending services increases life expectancy, the Women's Health Initiative observational study based this report on a survey of 92,539 post-menopausal women over 50. The participants made up an ethnically, religiously, and socioeconomically diverse group.

According to the report, to be published this week in the Journal of Religion and Health, those who attend services frequently were 56% more likely to have an optimistic life outlook than those who don't and were 27% less likely to be depressed. Those who attended weekly were less likely to be characterized by cynical hostility, compared with those who did not report any religious service attendance.

"We looked at a number of psychological factors; optimism, depression, cynical hostility, and a number of subcategories and subscales involving social support and social strain," said Eliezer Schnall an associate professor of psychology at Yeshiva University in Manhattan, who headed the initiative.

"The link between religious activity and health is most evident in women, specifically older women," he said.

The research focused on an important group, because "as they are living longer," Schnall said, "seniors are a growing group, and women have longer lifespans than men." more