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Religion-Good Health
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Dr Koenig found that those who attend church at least once a week have one-half as much interleukin-6 in their blood, a substance known to impair the working of the immune system. In addition, four out of every five research studies on religion and health, report a significant positive association between religious involvement and positive emotions, such as well-being, life satisfaction, and happiness.

A 15-year prospective study of mortality was conducted amongst 22 Jewish communities, 11 of which were secular kibbutzim and 11 were religious kibbutzim. All were cohesive, supportive communities in Israel and were highly similar in social and economic function. What were the observed death rates? The secular kibbutzim were found to have death rate that was twice that seen in the religious kibbutzim.

Researchers in California found that frequent religious attendance (once a week or more) was associated with a 23% reduced likelihood of dying during the 28-year period of the study. It comes as no surprise then that those who regularly attend church live seven to eight years longer than those who never attend.

Religious People Spend Less Time in Hospital

Religious involvement can affect health outcomes. Religious people spend less time in hospital, recover faster, and handle the stresses of life better. In heart patients, Dr Morris observed that those who scored the lowest on a spiritual well-being questionnaire experienced the most progression of coronary obstruction over four years, while those with the highest scores had the most regression of heart disease.

In a study at Stanford University that examined the health of women with metastatic breast cancer, researchers observed that the importance of religious or spiritual expression was positively correlated with natural killer cell numbers, T-helper cell counts, and total lymphocyte numbers.

Using brain scans, scientists have discovered that prayer and meditation can change brain activity and improve immune response. Other studies have shown that meditation can lower heart rate and blood pressure, both of which reduce the body’s stress response. Having a spirit of forgiveness may also boost your health. Dr Krause, of the University of Michigan, found that people who forgive easily tend to enjoy greater psychological well-being and have less depression than those who hold grudges.

Why is religious belief so valuable? It is an important strategy that people use to cope with stress, especially in face of acute or chronic medical illness. Because of this, stress will have a diminished effect upon the immune system. Religious belief also provides a person an optimistic worldview, infusing purpose and meaning into difficult life situations. It is clear that physical health is enhanced by having a religious faith and practice.

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By Winston J. Craig, R.D. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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