A study published in 2000 by the American Psychological Association found that “religious involvement was significantly associated with lower mortality.” Similarly, a study published in The American Journal of Public Health in 1997 found that frequent religious attendance reduced mortality.
Researchers suspect some of this comes from healthier behaviors and more social interaction characteristic of those with religious involvement. But, to their credit, they accept that the research results show a connection between religious involvement and reduced mortality and indicate that more research is needed to understand why.
I recently read an interesting book entitled, “Long For This World – The Strange Science of Immortality” by Jonathan Weiner. Much of the book centers on conversations with Aubrey de Grey who believes that aging is a disease caused by the accumulation of waste at the cellular level, sometimes called the “disposable soma theory”.
Aubrey de Grey feels that these cellular challenges can be met by medical science and that it will then be possible for human beings to live much longer, even to the age of 1,000. And while that may seem like a bit of a stretch, it raises some interesting issues.
Weiner shares how two anthropologists, Rachel Caspari at The University of Michigan and Sang-Hee Lee at the University of California Riverside, examined the whole Paleolithic dental database and found that about thirty thousand years ago, the number who lived to be grandparents rose fourfold. So mortality decreased (and life expectancy increased) at that time. If life expectancy increased then, couldn’t it increase yet again, and again?
Turning to diseases associated with aging, Weiner writes of Aubrey’s review of junk in brain cells, “We really don’t know much about dementia, which is not surprising, because we don’t know much about how brains produce consciousness. If we knew how the brain makes the mind, it might be easier to figure out why the brain stops making the mind. If we knew how the body makes the mind, we might be able to figure out how a sick body makes a sick mind.”
Let me just toss out an idea here for consideration. What if it’s the other way around? Strange as this may sound, what if the mind makes the body? Wouldn’t it also then follow that a sick mind makes a sick body? If that were the case, wouldn’t an improvement in the mind result in an improvement in the body (i.e. better health)? And wouldn’t improvements in the mind that reduce mortality tend to reduce diseases associated with aging (and vice versa)?
Professor Glenn Weaver of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has studied Alzheimer’s disease and spirituality, and says, “It’s amazing the awakening of memory that taking communion can have“.
If religious involvement reduces mortality as studies have shown, could this be a result of activity in which consciousness is connecting with the divine (in prayer or worship activity, for example) and that this improvement in consciousness through spirituality results in improvement in the body that is seen in lower mortality? Interesting indeed!