This is taken from an article in USA Today. I add stuff to it as well.
Nearly half of the country-roughly 2 in 5 Americans –reports having attended a religious service in the past week. The draw for many may be a meaningful liturgy, perhaps a sense of forgiveness and ultimately, salvation. Here in St. Francis people come to meet family and friends, hear a wide variety of preaching, enjoy the music and receive a lift in their spirits before going out to another week of work in demanding jobs. Few people would say that they come for good health!
Why might attending Mass improve one’s health? The Nurses’ Health Study finds that social support is critical, yet this accounts only for a quarter of the effect. Other things seemto be important as well, possibly due to behavioral norms at services. For instance, those attending are less likely to smoke, or more likely to quit altogether, producing significant health benefits.
Religious services attendance affects mental health, too. The research at Harvard and elsewhere indicates that, possibly due to a message of faith or hope, those who attend services are more optimistic and have lower rates of depression. The research from Harvard also shows that attendance protects against suicide. Others have found that churchgoers report having a greater purpose in life and developing more self control- both things by which service attendance might affect health.
Today, more Americans are choosing no religion at all and we are witnessing the erosion of religious institutions. For some, church attendance is seen as quaint and outdated, and “spirituality” has become a code word for “No thanks, I’m sleeping in on Sunday.” What this go-it- alone movement will usher out, it seems, is the benefits of being in the pews. After all, the research has shown that service attendance, rather than private spirituality or solitary practice, strongly predicts health. Something about communal religious practice appears to be essential. ( More next time).