(From The Times June 14, 2018)

Oliver Moody, science correspondent for The Times quotes the book of Proverbs. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.”

It turns out that is not too far from the empirical truth. A study has shown that “religiously observant people” tend to live up to 6 years longer than atheists or agnostics.

It could be that this is because the faithful smoke less, drink less, avoid drugs and generally behave more sensibly. However, another important factor is that churchgoers find it easier to maintain a healthy social network, especially in old age. Loneliness shortens our life. Friendships lengthen it.

Where are they getting all this from?

The findings are based on an analysis of over 1600 obituaries taken from local newspapers. Most of the research to date has been carried out in America. However, The Times reports that experts believe the same effect holds in Britain.

Incidentally, they also discovered that Christians are not very good at estimating how often they worship. On average they exaggerate their church attendance by a factor of two. (Who knew?)

The obituaries revealed, that those with a church background or religious affiliation lived a full 6 ½ years longer than the others even after influences such as gender and marital status were taken into account.

A second study was conducted, this time looking at 1096 obituaries, in 42 large cities across the United States. That discovered a similar but slightly smaller effect. That study concluded that “the religious” lived 3.8 years longer than the “non-religious”. I guess we shouldn’t be that surprised that faith brings extra benefits – but it is fascinating nonetheless.