NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 15, 2006

The strong but small association between weekly religious attendance and mortality provides possible relevance for medical practice, says Daniel Hall of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers.

By comparing weekly religious attendance, regular physical exercise and cholesterol lowering agents, Hall concludes:

  • Weekly attendance at religious services accounts for an additional 2 to 3 life-years compared with 3 to 5 life-years for physical exercise and 2.5 to 3.5 life-years for cholesterol-lowering agents.
  • The approximate cost per life-year gained is between $2,000 and $6,000 for regular exercise, $3,000 to $10,000 for regular religious attendance and between $4,000 and $14,000 for cholesterol lowering agents-type agents.
  • Cholesterol lowering agents are more effective than regular religious attendance (2.1 to 3.7 versus 1.8 to 3.1) but they are also more expensive ($4,000 to $14,000 versus $3,000 to $10,000 per year of life gained).
  • Regular physical exercise is both the most effective (3 to 5 additional years of life) and least expensive ($2,000 to $6,000 per year of life gained).

Hall says there are limitations with his study:

  • Data regarding cholesterol-lowering agents versus religious attendance provide a stronger form of evidence between mortality.
  • He practices Christianity, though he worked to ensure the design and interpretation of this study stood on purely scientific grounds.

Source: Daniel Hall, "Religious Attendance: More Cost-Effective Than Lipitor?" Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, vol. 19, no. 2, March / April 2006.

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