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Active church involvement "adding months to older women's lives"

Tue 17 May 2016
By Aaron James

Older women who go to church more than once a week live five months longer on average than those who don't, a new study in the US have found.

Looking at all causes of death, academics from the public health graduate school at Harvard University also concluded they were 33-per-cent less likely to die over a 16-year period.

They examined the health records of nearly 75,000 women who were mostly Christians and had an average age of 60-years-old.

The researchers found fewer depressive symptoms, greater optimism, stronger social networks and lower rates of smoking were all attributing factors behind why older women who frequently attend church might live longer.

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Writing in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, they wrote: "Our results do not imply that health care professionals should prescribe attendance at religious services, but for those who already hold religious beliefs, attendance at services could be encouraged as a form of meaningful social participation."

The academics also note church attendance is not a marker of the strength of an individuals' faith and they highlight the reasons for going to church vary from person-to-person.

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speaking to Dr Roger Bretherton, from the British Association of Christians in Psychology, on the News Hour:

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