Study: Faith Good for Health

By Mark A. Kellner | Posted March 10, 2020

It’s long been argued that attending worship services is good for the soul. But did you know there are now indications that it’s great for your health?

At a time when fears about the coronavirus are sweeping the world, a person’s faith actually does matter.

In an article from the Daily Mail newspaper, Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that “religious people are less likely to fall or feel ill” than those who are not. While “68 per cent of Christians, 77 per cent of Jews, 72 per cent of Hindus, 69 per cent of Sikhs and 66 per cent of Muslims said they were satisfied about their health,” only 64 percent of those with no religious belief indicated satisfaction.

Influencing Lifestyle Choices

Much of the good news about faith and health might be attributed to those religions that discourage the use of tobacco. According to the ONS study, 18 percent of people with no faith smoked as opposed to 11 percent of Christians and Muslims, five percent of Hindus, four percent of Jews, and two percent of Sikhs. (Many denominations prohibit smoking among its members, while others tolerate the practice but discourage it.)

Levels of alcohol consumption are another factor, the study finds. According to the Daily Mail report, “non-believers are more likely to drink alcohol than followers of certain religions, such as Islam which outright bans it, or Sikhism and Hinduism which discourage it.” Again, many Christian denominations also have “outright bans” on drinking, such as The Salvation Army, founded as a temperance movement, as well as many Baptist churches.

Mental health scores were also higher for those belonging to a faith than they were for those not belonging to any faith, the newspaper reported. Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims all rated above 49 on a scale of 0 to 100 in contrast to those without a faith, who scored a 48.

This isn’t the first time a study has shown positive health outcomes for those who actively participate in religious communities. A 2018 study, published online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science and conducted mainly by researchers at The Ohio State University, stated “that people with religious affiliations lived nearly four years longer than those with no ties to religion.”

“Religious affiliation had nearly as strong an effect on longevity as gender does, which is a matter of years of life,” says the study’s lead author Laura Wallace.

According to another of the study’s authors, Baldwin Way, religion may relate to long life due to the many different areas of lifestyle it affects, from alcohol consumption (similar to what the ONS report found) to “stress-reducing practices” such as prayer.

God Has Something to Say

What may be surprising to some is that many of these lifestyle choices of persons of faith originate from the Bible, often referred to as an “instruction manual” for life. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise,” advises Proverbs 20:1 on drinking habits. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God,” encourages Philippians 4:6 on stress reduction. So it turns out that God has a lot to say about our health and happiness.

In Amazing Health Secrets: Eight Bible Principles for a Longer Life, Pastor Doug Batchelor explores what God says about maintaining and promoting better health. Part 1 concentrates on the key elements of nutrition, exercise, and water. In Part 2, guest speaker Dr. David DeRose shares principles that include sunshine, temperance, air, rest, and trust in God.

And for those who like their health education in written form, our free online Bible study “God’s Free Health Plan” is a great way to begin. Why has God set certain health laws in place, and why do they endure today?

For one, God wants people to be healthy: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers,” states 3 John 2. And centuries before John’s epistle, God offered this promise in Exodus 15:26: “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.”

This is not to be taken as a kind of quid pro quo transaction between us and God; the Bible is not to be relegated to a panacea for COVID-19 or any other disease. The reason God instructs His people in this way of life is because He loves us, because He seeks to prepare us for the trials and tribulations we will undoubtedly face in this life, and because He wants us to look beyond our physical health to our spiritual health. 

What God can do for us physically, He can do for us spiritually. He desires to give us so much more than health on this earth; He desires to give us everlasting life with Him: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Find out more about that abundant life, God’s ultimate purpose for you, in Pastor Doug’s Sabbath School lesson, “Prayer, Healing, and Restoration” where he states “Our purpose is not, after all, to make people healthier sinners but to point them to the eternal life found in Jesus.” 

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.

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