Azara Blog: Religion allegedly makes you live longer

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Date published: 2006/04/05

The BBC says:

Weekly religious attendance could add years to your life, according to a medical study carried out in the US.

The effects of exercise, religious attendance and anti-cholesterol drugs on life expectancy were examined.

All three were found to be beneficial, with religious attendance adding two to three years to your life.

The results of the research were published in the March-April issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Using age-dependent death-rate statistics, scientists from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that weekly attendance at religious services accounted for an additional two to three years.

Regular physical exercise clocked up an extra three to five years and cholesterol-reducing drugs such as Lipitor cholesterol about 2.5 to 3.5 years.

Study leader Daniel Hall, a resident in general surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told the LiveScience website that the benefits of religious attendance may stem more from social set-up, than faith.

"There is something about being knit into the type of community that religious communities embody that has a way of mediating a positive health effect," he said.

He also suggested that religion may have a role in reducing stress, or at least in boosting an individual's ability to cope.

"Being in a religious community helps you make meaning out of your life," he said.

A potentially classic case of confusing correlation and causation. All these people have found is a correlation, not a causation. In particular, did they factor in wealth, and the zillion and one other things which might mean that religious people live longer? This is not to say that the cause is not there, it's just that these people have in no way proven it. But never let that get in the way of a good press release. And the statement that religion "make[s] meaning out of your life" is just spin. You could equally say that "religion makes you a zombie and zombies suffer less from stress". Religion is the source of a large chunk of problems on the planet, and we need less religion, not more.

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