Do atheists have shorter lives?

Dr. Mumper confirmed that I was a walking, Type-II diabetes time bomb—I was overweight (with excess “belly fat”—boy, I hated the sound of that, but it was obviously true) with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  (excerpt from The Race Before Us)

spirituality 3

My story, of course, is about confronting problems and challenges with my physical and spiritual life.  Thus, I thought it was interesting – and something to share – when I recently read about a mortality study in a Duke University (with apologies to my daughter at Chapel Hill) newsletter from the Center for Spirituality, Theology & Health that included a consideration of church attendance.  (And, a special thanks to Faith and Health Connection for directing me to this study.)  We all know that correlation does not mean causation, but sometimes you do need to stop and think about the results of certain studies.  In fact, I recently had a blog post about Malcolm Gladwell, who regularly challenges us with his observations about life – often about correlations that are hard to dismiss out of hand.


With that background, I will ask you to take a simple test.  Of the following factor, which one is a stronger predictor of mortality:

– obesity

– education

– high cholesterol

– high blood pressure

– marital status

– religious attendance

– income

– race

I am sure you got it correct, but for the correct response and a brief summary of the findings, I quote from the newsletter:

Among men, religious attendance was a stronger predictor of mortality than race, education, obesity, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Among women, religious attendance had a similar effect as race and a stronger effect than education, income, obesity, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. In both genders, no other social factor – including marital status – had as strong an effect as religious attendance on mortality. 

The newsletter also states:

This is a very important study because it compares the effect of religious attendance on mortality with other traditional risk factors, and it does so in arguably the most well known longitudinal study of health in the U.S. (the HANES-III). 

Perhaps addressing your spiritual health while working on your next long race may add a few races to your life?

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  1. #1 by bke161 on November 1, 2013 - 4:13 am

    Very interesting!

  2. #2 by George on November 4, 2013 - 10:47 am

    Just checking if the study concluded that “religious” attendance or “church” attendance was a strong predictor of mortality. If the former, then it really has a whole lot of other implications.

    • #3 by bhmatson on November 7, 2013 - 10:28 am

      George – The article about the study referred only to “religious” attendance.
      Thanks for following. Bruce

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