Religious attendance leads to resilience.

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Religious attendance leads to resilience.

Since it’s Easter a religion-themed study is only appropriate. This very recent  one comes from the Journal of Religion and Health, and it looks at the connection between attendance at religious services and resilience. It has implications for all of us.   

What the researchers say: The study indicates that there is a strong connection between religious service attendance and resilience. It also shows, according to the researchers, that there is a lower level of depression among church/mosque/synagogue/temple goers after traumatic events. Which suggests it might even be a buffer against PTSD.   

They are not saying that this is due to the teachings of the religion itself. There is nothing to show that one faith is any better than another in promoting resilience.   However there have been studies in recent years showing that people who do go regularly to a place of worship tend to have more robust health and to live longer than non-attenders. 

There have been many attempts to scientifically explain this phenomenon. The four main potential psychosocial mechanisms that have received most empirical attention are health practices, social support, psychosocial resources such as self-esteem and self-efficacy, and a coherence that belief structures create. But for the most part the evidence in support of any of these has been inconsistent.  

 A few years ago most attention was given to the possible positive effect of social support, which itself has been shown to increase longevity. This is due to its effect on strengthening the immune system. More recently attention has been given to better health practices among church/temple/synagogue/mosque-goers and to their higher level of physical activity. Maybe the outlawed US real estate sales pitch “walk to worship” had some point to it.   

Surprisingly, other aspects of religious experience, the beliefs themselves for example, do not explain, and often tend to suppress, the association between service attendance and increased resilience.   What the researchers are now saying is that it’s the regular attendance itself which is the factor spurring resilience. The combination of having a social routine and being with other generally supportive people with whom you share things in common. The fact that it’s a place of worship may just be coincidental.   The sense of belonging—being with people that you share important things with, especially spiritual beliefs—is a powerful resilience factor. If you are a Christian one of the things you share is Easter. if you are Jewish, it's  Passover. In either case, have a happy one.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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