According to the Daily Mail, a study undertaken by researchers from Ohio State University in the US concluded that religious people live on average four years longer than atheists or non religious. The results of their study were published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal.
The group of psychology researchers came to this conclusion after studying the obituaries of over 1,000 people.
This included 505 recorded n the Des Moines Register in Iowa in January and February 2012. The study led by doctoral student Laura Wallace concluded that church goers outlived non-religious people by 9.45 years. However, once they factored out other elements that can contribute to longer life including marriage and gender, that difference shrunk to 6.48 years.
A second study of 1,096 obituaries published in 42 cites between August 2010 and August 2011 showed religious people lived an average of 5.64 years longer than those who weren’t. Once gender and marital status were factored out that difference dropped to 3.82 years.
The researchers said there were several factors that may contribute to longevity for religious people and this includes a more active social life such as volunteerism found in churches. Other studies have shown that an active social life is a significant contributor to better health and longer-life spans.
However, in the case of the Ohio study, the research team estimated that increased social life contributed less than a year to the longer life spans of the religious people they studied.
The researchers suspected that other factors also came into play including lower usage of drugs and alcohol, fewer sex partners and the use of tools to deal with stress including prayer and meditation.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Wallace said their results are not surprising as several studies have concluded religious faith contributes to a healthier life. However, she noted that in many of the other studies, the person’s religious life was self-reported, in their study of obituaries another observer was commenting on a person’s lifestyle.
Aside from those mentioned by the Ohio study, other factors may be contributing to longer life. In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul comments on the unique nature of one of the ten commandments:
2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. ( Ephesians 6:2-3 NASV)
The fifth commandment was the only one that came with a promise. If we honored our mother and father, we would live longer.
But Paul was well also aware of the problems families can run into and in the fourth verse he warns fathers of not provoking their children to anger (Ephesians 6:4).
Parents are not perfect. They will make mistakes. They will exasperate and anger their children. And in those instances before we can honor them, we must first forgive them.
Forgiving others was one of the major teachings of Jesus and it no more holds true than for families. When the Apostle Peter asked Christ how many times a person should forgive his brother (a family member) and threw out the number seven times, Jesus countered:
“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18: 22 NASV)
While Peter was trying to keep track of how many times he had forgiven his brother, Jesus countered that we need to forgive our brother seventy-time seven or 490 times, a number that would be almost impossible to track. Most commentators conclude that Jesus was saying that we must forgive indefinitely.
Certainly families give more opportunities for offense and we must forgive them and keep on forgiving and this is no more true than for our parents.