Regular attendance at religious services reduces the risk of death for women by 20 percent, according to a new study.
The study by researchers at Yeshiva University and its Albert Einstein College of Medicine was published Nov. 17 in the Psychology and Health journal.
The researchers evaluated the religious practices of 92,395 women aged 50 to 79 participating in the Women’s Health Initiative, a national, long-term study aimed at addressing women’s health issues and funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Those who said they attended religious services at least once a week showed a 20 percent mortality risk reduction compared with those not attending services at all. The study did not attempt to measure spirituality; its authors stress that it examined self-reported measures of religiosity.
The study adjusted for the women’s participation in organizations and group activities that promote a strong social life and enjoyable routines, behaviors known to lead to overall wellness.
“Interestingly, the protection against mortality provided by religion cannot be entirely explained by expected factors that include enhanced social support of friends or family, lifestyle choices and reduced smoking and alcohol consumption,” said Dr. Eliezer Schnall, the lead author of the study. “There is something here that we don’t quite understand. It is always possible that some unknown or unmeasured factors confounded these results.”