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New Study Says Church Involvement Is Secret to 'Sustained Happiness' and Long-Term Fulfillment

( [email protected] ) Aug 18, 2015 07:28 PM EDT
A new study has found that joining a church contributes more to an individual's "sustained happiness" and fulfillment than any other form of social involvement, including volunteering at a charity or taking a class.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that sustained happiness lies in participation in religion.
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A new study has found that joining a church contributes more to an individual's "sustained happiness" and fulfillment than any other form of social involvement, including volunteering at a charity, participating in a political organization, or taking a class.

According to NBC News, a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that sustained happiness ultimately lies in participation in religion.

"The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life," Mauricio Avendano, an epidemiologist at LSE and an author of the study, said in a statement. "It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se, or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated."

Faith groups can provide a sense of belonging and purpose, and participating in a religious organization can influence lifestyle choices, researchers said, and help older people cope with illness and death.

However, the report noted that it is unclear whether the benefits of participating in a religious organization are attributed to being connected to a religious community or to faith itself.

Researchers came to their conclusion after analyzing 9,000 Europeans who were older than 50 and looking at four specific areas, including volunteering or working with a charity, taking educational courses, participating in religious organizations and participating in a political or community organization.

Out of all four areas, researchers discovered that participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness.

The report also found no evidence that volunteering leads to better mental health, as benefits could be outweighed by other negative impacts of volunteering, such as stress, Avendano said.

As previously reported by the Gospel Herald, a study published earlier this month also found that cancer patients who possess a deep faith in God experience fewer physical and mental symptoms of the illness than non-believers.

Explained Dr. John Salsman at Wake Forest School of Medicine, "Spiritual well-being was, unsurprisingly, associated with less anxiety, depression, or distress. Also, greater levels of spiritual distress and a sense of disconnectedness with God or a religious community was associated with greater psychological distress or poorer emotional well-being."

Similarly, a report released last year published in the British Journal of General Practice found that religious faith remains by far the best predictor of a long and healthy life. The study found that faith reduced the risk of a heart attack by two-thirds and and also improved survival of a stroke or cancer.

Researchers also found that believers with depression typically recovered faster, and those with schizophrenia functioned better, while alcohol and drug misuse was reduced.

"Faith in God," concluded survey conductor Dr. Richard Scott, "is relevant to all diseases yet studied."