Is frequent religious service attendance associated with a lower risk of deaths related to drugs, alcohol, and suicide (referred to as deaths from despair) among US health care professionals?
In this cohort study of 66 492 female registered nurses and 43 141 male health care professionals in the US, attendance at religious services at least once per week was associated with a 68% lower hazard of death from despair among women and a 33% lower hazard among men compared with never attendance.
The findings suggest that frequent attendance at religious services is associated with lower subsequent risk of deaths from despair.
A follow-up would be really interesting:
Interesting study. However, one can't draw definitive conclusions from just one study. For instance...
If this study were replicated amongst all types of professions, would it show the same results?
Why the difference in the results between women and men? Fewer numbers of men participated in this study, but number of despair deaths were 4 times higher than women. So why such a big difference between the genders? Religious attendance lowered incidences of death by despair in female nurses, but not so much with the male healthcare workers. Why?
What was the number of deaths by suicide vs. number of deaths by unintentional poisoning? Can we definitively say that death by unintentional poisoning was a factor of despair, or just a desire for that high feeling that went too far? What drugs were being used? Was genetic predisposition to addition factored in?
What would the study results look like if the denominations of religions were factored in?
What other lifestyle factors might have lowered incidences of death by despair besides church attendance?
Just some thoughts.
This little Agnostic.com provides many of the benefits of going to church.
One of the things I like about it is people are much more candid with their thoughts here than they are at church, and we don't have to waste an hour listing to crazy 2000+ year old fairy tales.
Having a good support network is a protective factor. If you fit into the flock I’m sure it can work that way; but unfortunately if you don’t you can certainly feel judged and ostracised too, The figurehead of the New Testament Jesus wouldn’t have had a bar of many modern churches, just as he had issues with traditional Judaism when/(if) he was alive.
Actual Emotional and Psychological support for those on any 'front-line' in a crisis does far more good in the long run than religion/religious support any day.
As a practicing Nurse for over 10 years and 12 years on the N.S.W, Railways as a member of the Derailment and Collision, etc, Clean-up Gang I have been involved in many a harrowing, gut-wrenching crisis and never once has there been even the scent of a Preacher in sight both during and after the event.
But as a Nurse we were always offered and accepted willing the emotional and psychological support, etc, provided and we always found that it was much more helpful than mere prayers, tea and sympathy as per the religious method.
There are many different kinds of religious observance and this study does not address what flavor or brand produced the healthier responses to stress.
Many of my religious friends are educated and tolerant of different beliefs. Several of them are unitarians and they do not consider themselves theist at all. I also have several friends who are Episcopalian and they seem to be driven more by a strong commitment to social justice.
In other words I think the healthy emotional responses are more related to the benefits of a community and shared purpose.
Yet another study that raises far more questions than it answers.
What are the components of religion and how might each be a factor in protectong someone from despair. My immediate suspicion is the social, community aspect of organized religion plays a huge part in that benefit, ....it protects the individual from LONELINESS that contributes to despair.. ...while the belief part largely serves to motivate members to stay involved, crucial if they are to benefit from the community perks.
After having read dozens of studies like this one, my personal conclusion is that it is almost impossible to tell causation from correlation and to find reliable causal pathways that apply not only within a given society (like, say, the USA or Russia) but also if we compare religious with secular societies all over the world: although within most countries religious people tend to be happier and healthier than less-religious people, the people of modernized but secular countries have higher mental and physical well-being than the people of less-modernized but highly religious countries.
Here’s a Pew study that backs up those results:
Pew study on benefits of religion
I need no convincing. When I look around me I can easily see that it is not Church members who are living lives of crime, drug and alcohol dependency or desperation. While it is certainly possible to lead a good and happy life without being a church member, for the population at large, you can not deny these statistics.
I personally feel that in this case correlation does not mean causation. For cause, you have to look beyond. Don’t think of a church as a “thing” with the ability to cause stuff. A church is a group of sensitive and aware people who come together for mutual support and social stimulation. They are people who were already not prone to selfishness, depression or despair.
Thanks TheMiddleWay for your very good post.
Great questions. Then there’s the correlation/causation question. Would mere attendance have the same effect on a non-believer? I doubt it would. I suspect the causal agent is a particular worldview, and I also think a suitably conducive worldview could be constructed of non-supernatural elements. But... it’s not easy to do alone. Generally, some kind of training is needed, and most non-religious people are allergic to the suggestion of “spiritual” training. So they prefer suffering. The problem is, like with the virus, their suffering adds to societal suffering in general.