All the talk of federal deficits and rising costs of health care here in the United States over the last years could not have been avoided unless one was practicing for the role of Rip Van Winkle. Rising health care costs are a national concern. We have made national campaigns to educate people that smoking is bad for your health, so is lead, mercury, asbestos, among others; each campaign has had the effect of increasing our average health and, in turn, lowering our health care costs.
Being a minister of God, I have another important campaign to increase our personal health and lower our national (and personal) health care costs: come to church and participate in the faith community there.
There is a well-studied cause and effect relationship between one’s attending church or temple and one’s average health. If one Googles “Religion and Health Research,” more than 264 million items will show up — that is a great deal of study. And the results are undeniable that attending a faith community regularly has a positive health effect for people. I spent time sorting through and reading compilations of recent study summaries to share some of the more straight-forward examples.
One study found the lowest levels of physical pain experienced by patients were found to be directly related to people who weekly attend religious activities. This remained true across the range of severity of the physical cause of the pain. A different study showed that the severity of physical illness was reduced for people who regularly attended church or regularly participated in spiritual practices of prayer or Bible study.
A significant 53 percent reduction in length of hospital stays was found in another study for people who frequently attend religious services and participate in personal faith activity such as prayer or Bible study. That alone would translate into significant cost savings if taken over the national population.