Sunday, February 19, 2012

Do Religious People Live Longer?

Some do and some don't, according to new research on the interaction between religious involvement and education. For the less-educated, religious involvement (measured by the frequency of attending religious services) lowers the risk of dying relative to their peers. "For people who have minimal educational attainment," say sociologists Benjamin E. Moulton and Darren E. Sherkat, "religious participation is a positive resource, providing regulation against unhealthy behaviors and integration into a supportive community."  

Things are not so rosy for the highly educated, however. Among people with four or more years of college, the greater their religious involvement the higher their risk of dying relative to their peers. How does this happen? The authors suggest that the hostility of many sectarian and fundamentalist religious groups toward science, coupled with their belief in magical healing and miracles may "hinder preventive health behaviors" and cause the educated to "delay seeking crucial health services." That's a delay that can lead to an untimely death.

Source: Benjamin E. Moulton and Darren E. Sherkat, Specifying the Effects of Religious Participation and Educational Attainment on Mortality Risk for U.S. Adults, Sociological Spectrum, 32: 1019, 2012

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