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Editorial
May 6, 2020

Religious Service Attendance and Despair Among Health Professionals—A Catalyst for New Avenues of Inquiry

Author Affiliations
  • 1Program for Research on Faith and Health, Center for Research on Men’s Health, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 2Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 3David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles
  • 4Department of Health Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 5Program for Research on Men’s Health, Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Psychiatry. 2020;77(7):670-671. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.0173

Religion is one of the oldest social and cultural systems known to mankind and has profoundly shaped social institutions in the US.1-4 Social scientists during the early 20th century intimated that religion can have implications for health. In addition, social gerontology was the first field of inquiry to systematically examine associations between these rich concepts.2 Numerous studies over the past half-century have attempted to examine how religious beliefs, practices, or organizations influence health outcomes, well-being, and longevity. Religious service attendance has emerged from this line of research as a key factor associated with health among individuals, especially in later life.3 Recent studies including individuals followed from midlife and late life (older than 40 years) who attended religious services every week were considerably less likely to die than peers who did not attend religious services.1,5 These findings have been featured in print, television, and web-based media outlets across the globe, reinforcing the high level of interest in the associations between religion and health; however, the specific mechanisms linking frequent religious services attendance to health have yet to be clearly elucidated. Furthermore, it has been suggested that religious services are positive social environments that foster attitudes, motivations, goals, and social interactions that mitigate the deleterious effects of social and psychological stressors on physiologic dysregulation and risks for mortality.1

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    1 Comment for this article
    Becoming immortal?
    Paul Enck, Prof., PhD | University Hospital Tübingen, Germany
    While the paper is a fair evaluation of the article by Chen et al., the following sentence from the introduction is puzzling:

    Recent studies including individuals followed from midlife and late life (older than 40 years) who attended religious services every week were considerably less likely to die than peers who did not attend religious services.

    No, the likelihood to die remains the same and is 100%, fortunately!
    CONFLICT OF INTEREST: None Reported
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