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Study: Weekly Attendance at Religious Services Prolongs Life

Well, that’s what a recent study of older Black American men showed

According to a recent article in PLOS:

For men of color, faith-based organizations become increasingly important as they approach their senior years. Whether they’re members of a church, mosque, synagogue or other center of worship, Black men are discovering life affirming—and life extending—rewards of belonging to a community of worship.

A new study led by the University of Houston’s Marino Bruce suggests that regularly attending religious services may lower mortality rates for Black men in their 50s and older. These findings were recently published in journal PLOS One, in the article “Religious Service Attendance and Mortality Among Older Black Men.”

Using data from the National Health and National Examination Survey (NHANES), Bruce and co-authors observed trends suggesting that mortality risks decreased for Black men in their 50s and older who attended services at places of worship on a weekly basis.

Mike Emery, “Power of the pulpit: Study suggests lower mortality rates for Black men 50+ who attend religious services” at University of Houston (September 23, 2022) The paper is open access.

Many studies of a variety of different groups show the same thing. Regular attendance at religious services is associated with lifestyles that promote longevity.

For all groups, two factors are likely involved: A religious organization usually offers direct instruction. But second, just attending every week or so means staying in touch with people who care. It becomes a caring community.

Here’s the Abstract:

Religious institutions have been responsive to the needs of Black men and other marginalized populations. Religious service attendance is a common practice that has been associated with stress management and extended longevity. The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between religious service attendance and all-cause mortality among Black men 50 years of age and older. Data for this study were from NHANES III (1988–1994). The analytic sample (n = 839) was restricted to participants at least 50 years of age at the time of interview who self-identified as Black and male. Mortality was the primary outcome for this study and the NHANES III Linked Mortality File was used to estimate race-specific, non-injury-related death rates using a probabilistic matching algorithm, linked to the National Death Index through December 31, 2015, providing up to 27 years follow-up. The primary independent variable was religious service attendance, a categorical variable indicating that participants attended religious services at least weekly, three or fewer times per month, or not at all. The mean age of participants was 63.6±0.3 years and 36.4% of sample members reported that they attended religious services one or more times per week, exceeding those attending three or fewer times per month (31.7%), or not at all (31.9%). Cox proportional hazard logistic regression models were estimated to determine the association between religious service attendance and mortality. Participants with the most frequent religious service attendance had a 47% reduction of all-cause mortality risk compared their peer who did not attend religious services at all (HR 0.53, CI 0.35–0.79) in the fully adjusted model including socioeconomic status, non-cardiovascular medical conditions, health behaviors, social support and allostatic load. Our findings underscore the potential salience of religiosity and spirituality for health in Black men, an understudied group where elevated risk factors are often present.

Bruce MA, Beech BM, Kermah D, Bailey S, Phillips N, Jones HP, et al. (2022) Religious service attendance and mortality among older Black men. PLoS ONE 17(9): e0273806. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273806

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Study: Weekly Attendance at Religious Services Prolongs Life