According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology faith plays a key role in warding off depression and in providing “sustained happiness.”
In their study reported by NBC, researchers with the University Medical Center in Holland and the London School of Economics compared the involvements of 9,000 Europeans aged 50 and over across 10 countries to find out what activities produced the best emotional benefit.
The four areas compared included participation in religious organizations, political or community organizations, charity groups and taking educational classes.
The researchers found that only one — involvement in religious organizations — produced “sustained happiness” in the people studied. The study also showed that church participation gave people a sense of fulfillment and purpose and enabled people to make lifestyle choices that bettered their life.
They also found the benefit extended across all countries included in the study.
They even noticed a reduction in depression symptoms over a four-year period through increased church attendance.
However, the research team was unable to find if it was faith in God or attendance in religious meetings, primarily Christian churches, that produced this benefit.
Speaking on behalf of the research group, Mauricio Avendano, an epidemiologist with the London School of Economics stated:
“The church appears to play a very important role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life. It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated.”
But from a Christian perspective, faith and church participation are intricately linked. Without faith in God, church becomes simply another charitable organization or social group which did not score well in this study.
It is faith that gives church attendance its meaning and substance.
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1 NASV)