NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 9, 2005

Attending religious services regularly may benefit an individual's physical and mental health, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In a review of empirical studies for the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Lynda Powell of Chicago's Rush University Medical Center and other researchers found:

  • Weekly church attendees experience a 25 percent lower mortality rate than non-church goers.
  • Weekly church attendance is associated with significant improvements in smoking cessation, lower incidence of depression and increased numbers of personal relationships.
  • Over 30 years, individuals attending religious services at least weekly are more likely to establish good health habits or maintain existing health habits.

However, these benefits do not accrue to people who watch religious services on television. Furthermore, women tend to gain more benefits from church attendance than do men, likely due to women utilizing the social networks provided by religion.

Furthermore, while Dr. Powell does not believe that God is the mechanism contributing to the health benefits, she suggests that prayer or meditation in times of anger and distress may diminish the harmful effects of negative emotions.

Source: Kevin Hillker, "Body and Spirit: Why Attending Religious Services May Benefit Health," Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2005; and William Strawbridge, Ph.D., et al., "Religious Attendance Increases Survival by Improving and Maintaining Good Health Behaviors, Mental Health and Social Relationships," Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2001.

For WSJ text (subscription required):,,SB111507405746322613,00.html?mod=todays_us_personal_journal

For study text:


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