Can religious belief make you live longer?

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A group of scientists from OH state University have conducted a new study and proved that religion has an impact on life expectancy.

People with religious beliefs live around four years longer on average than those who don't, according to research.

The research team also considered the gender, age, marital status, religious affiliation and list of social and volunteer activities.

Dr. Baldwin Way, an associate professor of psychology at Ohio State who co-authored the study, agreed.

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Overall, the study provided additional support to the growing number of studies showing that religion does have a positive effect on health, Wallace said. Other studies have shown that sociability contributes to a longer life, but researchers said it could only partly explain why religious people live longer than atheists.

The data revealed that those whose obituaries included a religious affiliation lived 9.45 years longer than those who did not - which dropped to 6.48 when gender and marital status were factored in. The average dropped to 3.82 years when gender and marital statues were taken into account.

A second study examined 1,096 obituaries from 42 major cities that were published between August 2010 and August 2011.

Researchers used data from both studies to determine if volunteering and participating in social groups led to longer lives, the report states. "We found that volunteerism and involvement in social organizations only accounted for a little less than one year of the longevity boosts that religious affiliation provided".

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"There's still a lot of the benefit of religious affiliation that this can't explain", said Wallace. But in cities that were not too concerned about making everyone conform, non-religious people lived as long as religious people did.

Other possible factors that help religious people live longer include peer pressure to live healthier lifestyles, abstinence from unhealthy habits such as drinking and drugs, and stress-reduction activities such as meditation, yoga, and of course, prayer.

The researchers acknowledge that there are limitations to the study, including the fact that it could not control for important factors related to longevity such as race and health behaviours.

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