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A new study has suggested religious people live four years longer than those without faith.
Analysis on over 1,500 newspaper obituaries in the US found religious affiliation had a big effect on life expectancy.
The study in the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal claims the social interaction of being involved in a faith community added one year to a person's life while stress reducing practices like prayer and meditation can also have a big impact.
Lead author of the study and a doctoral student in psychology, Laura Wallace (pictured below, right) said: "We found that volunteerism and involvement in social organisations only accounted for a little less than one year of the longevity boost that religious affiliation provided.
"There's still a lot of the benefit of religious affiliation that this can't explain."
The research, published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal, analysed the findings of two previous US studies which examined hundreds of newspapers obituaries.
One study, which looked at 1,100 obituaries from 42 US cities, found religious people tended to live five-and-a-half years longer than the non-religious.
The authors behind the new study combined results from different studies to try and establish whether volunteer work and social interaction explained why a gap in lifespans exists.
Laura Wallace added: "The study provides persuasive evidence that there is a relationship between religious participation and how long a person lives."
Wallace and her team concluded that other contributing factors were religious rules and norms that shun practices such as drinking alcohol, using drugs and having sex with multiple partners.
In addition, "many religions promote stress-reducing practices that may improve health, such as gratitude, prayer or meditation", said co-author and associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University, Baldwin Way (pictured above, left).
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