Being religious may not make you healthier after all

Mon Feb 8, 2010 5:16pm EST
 
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By Ivan Oransky

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Religious people may have taken comfort from a number of studies over the past two decades showing those adhering to a faith tend to be healthier but a new study casts some doubt on this belief.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, suggests that when it comes to heart disease and clogged arteries, attending religious services or having spiritual experiences may not protect against heart attacks and strokes.

"There's not a lot of extra burden or extra protection afforded by this particular aspect of people's lives," concluded Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, who led the study.

In a review of data from nearly 5,500 people, Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues expected to see less risk for heart disease among those with more "religiosity."

The researchers defined religiosity as participation in religious activities, prayer or meditation, and spirituality, regardless of denomination. They did not report the religious faiths of study participants.

Over the course of four years, those in the study had 152 events related to heart disease or clogged arteries, including 9 deaths, 42 heart attacks, and 24 strokes.

That rate of such events -- less than one percent per year -- was lower than in the general population, which the team expected because they excluded people who were already diagnosed with heart disease and related conditions.

However, neither the rate of heart disease events, nor the number of certain risk factors -- such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure -- differed among those who were more or less religious or spiritual.   Continued...