Researchers at the Ohio State University conducted a multi-part nationwide study on obituaries and found that people with religious affiliations live almost four years longer on average than people with no religious ties. The study looked at over 1,000 obituaries from all over the country. The study accounted for material status and sex, two factors already known to heavily affect lifespan.
Researchers found that one cause behind the longevity boost of religious affiliation is that many religious persons are also a part of other social and volunteer organizations. Previous studies had already linked these social affiliations to longer lifespans, so making the connection was not difficult. Additionally, the study found that the effects of religion on lifespan could also be linked to the “average religiosity” of where people live and the “personality” of that place.
As previously stated, there have been many studies that have shown that people who are a part of social or volunteer groups live longer than their peers who don’t—when combined with the other data about religious affiliations researchers found there was still something missing from the equation.
Researchers determined that one factor might be morality rules about sex and substance use in religions. These probably have a similar positive effect on longevity. In addition, stress relieving practices such as meditation, prayer, or gratitude are probably a factor.
The study is available online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.