November 21, 2011

Past studies have shown that those who attend religious services at least weekly tend to live longer and healthier lives.

Now, new research indicates frequent churchgoers also face those additional years with more optimism and greater social support than others.

A study involving more than 92,000 postmenopausal women showed that those who reported weekly attendance at religious services were 56 per cent more likely to be above the median in terms of their optimism level.

They also were significantly less likely to be depressed or to be cynical and hostile.

Titled Psychological and Social Characteristics Associated with Religiosity in Women’s Health Initiative Participants, the study was published in Journal of Religion and Health Nov. 11.

The research was conducted by a team led by Eliezer Schnall, clinical associate professor of psychology at Yeshiva University in New York.

In an interview, Schnall said the study was a natural follow-up to earlier research showing that those who attended weekly religious services had a lower mortality rate over an eight-year period than those who attended less frequently or not at all.