Can attending church affect your health?

A guest post written by Tim Mitchinson, media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Illinois.

(©Glowimages/stock photo)
(©Glowimages/stock photo)

Recently, actor Michael J. Fox talked about his visit to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.  He said there was “something special with these people, something special with the way they live their lives, something special about how they look at things.”

He felt this physically, as well as mentally.  He said, “Ever since I’ve been in Bhutan my symptoms [of Parkinson’s disease] have been really diminished.”  He concluded, “I don’t know whether that’s from the altitude, or whether it’s just Bhutan!”

It may just be Bhutan and its residents:  Bhutan’s Tourism Council lists “Spirituality and Wellness” as one of the country’s main activities.

I have been thinking about this a lot the last few days, and asking myself some penetrating questions.  “Does the way I live my life affect others in the ways these people affected Fox?”  “Are spirituality and wellness my main activities?” “Do people feel better after they have spent some time with me?”

These are questions I cannot answer right now, but certainly goals that I will think about even further and strive to emulate.  I recollect the words of the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19: 14).

Here’s another question:  Does the church I attend have the same effect on the wellness and spirituality of those who attend, as the kingdom of Bhutan and its inhabitants had on Fox?

What about the places where we worship?  Can attending church affect our health?

An article by Thomas Obisesan of Howard University, describes research he participated in that concluded, “In a national cohort of Americans, predominantly Christians, analyses demonstrated a lower risk of death independent of confounders among those reporting religious attendance at least weekly compared to never.”

It is good to see that attending church can have longevity benefits for us.  Church should be a place of spirituality and health.  Health writer, Charlene Laino, wrote for WebMD, about a survey of 37,000 men and women who regularly attended church.  She quoted Marilyn Baetz, MD of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, “The higher the worship frequency, the lower the odds of depression, mania and panic disorders.”  Charlene also quoted Marian Butterfield of Duke University, “Going to church may be a proxy for social support.  And studies show social support is protective against both physical and mental illness.”

I haven’t come to many conclusions about this yet, except for the fact that I want my life to affect others in a way that promotes health, spirituality and wellness.  I also want those who go to church to feel blessed by their attending.  I echo these words of Mary Baker Eddy, upon the dedication of her church in Boston, “Divine presence, breathe Thou thy blessing on every heart in this house.”

My profoundest wish is that we all find our place of spirituality and wellness – if that is in church, I look forward to seeing you Sunday!

©2013 Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois. Used with permission.

See related story about how Bhutan measures “gross national happiness”.

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