Nurses generally live healthy lives. But a new study shows that going to church could dramatically improve your health. The Harvard study followed almost 75,000 nurses over 20 years, interviewing them every two years on key indicators such as socioeconomic status, physical activity, social integration, smoking and mental health. There was a dose dependent response between church attendance and mortality from cardiovascular causes and cancer, most apparent between those who went more than once a week and never, leading to a 33% reduction in deaths. It was published in a high impact peer reviewed journal and widely reported in the media:
This adds to a wide body of research linking faith to good health. Broadly speaking the benefits are likely to be mediated by four factors known to benefit health: greater social support (including marriage), reduced risk behaviours (smoking and drug use), better mental health and direct effects on stress hormones and the immune system. Of course this does not vindicate any particular theology, and is likely to be common to many onhealthy prednisolone faith communities. Also, whilst on average long life and prosperity may follow wise living (read Proverbs), it is not a promise of Scripture. Beware the heresy of the ‘prosperity gospel’! The first disciples as well as many persecuted Christians around the globe today suffer higher mortality.
But faith is relevant to healthcare, as the RCN guidelines suggest we have a duty of care to be holistic and patient centred, taking into account spiritual factors, and where relevant to a patient’s condition, discussing spiritual issues. Patients will not complain if they recognize the relevance, and if we follow the older guidance of St Paul to engage with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15), and follow the example of Jesus. When was he ever coercive?
If you would like to explore these issues further and hone your practical skills, invite us to run a CMF Saline Solution day course near you!
Listen to me on BBC Radio Cornwall discussing this story.