The effect of religion on health is probably too huge a question to study easily. Certainly, one short blog can’t provide a full account of what is today being learned. But there are consistent tidbits coming out of contemporary studies that remind those of us who have a spiritual practice the importance of focusing on loving God more than all else and not making anything an idol.
Here’s one example. Many of us know Mormons are taught clear and prudent ways to live. They focus on commitment to both marriage and family stability. They neither smoke nor drink alcohol. And, they don’t use caffeine. It’s also understood they don’t use illegal drugs.
Sound too prissy for you? Listen up, anyone who wants a healthier life. A study by UCLA indicates these choices are direct contributors to improved health and longevity.
According to a Ford Motor Company newsletter on various faiths and religious practices:
1.) A UCLA study revealed that practicing Mormons live longer than most Americans, men by 11 years, and women by eight years.
2.) Utah, arguably the state with the most Mormons, ranks 50th in the nation in smoking, alcohol consumption, drunk driving, heart disease and sick days.
The studyprovides a glimpse, not only into the improvements in
individual health, but also to the overall impact of healthcare costs and incalculable suffering and economic impact connected with drunk driving, heart disease and “sick days.”
Studies such as these, tracking the connection between health and religion, offer other interesting insights. One of those is that the benefits of a connection between spirituality and health are not unique to any particular faith practice. For me, as someone who comes out of a Judeo-Christian background, this speaks of the universality of the idea that when we focus on growing our understanding of God (no matter what we call the Divine) and turn away from material things that become idols, we can rest assured of greater well-being.
I’m not in the business of converting folks to religion, not even my own. But as a Christian Scientist whose religion also teaches avoidance of tobacco, alcohol and other harmful habits like gambling and overeating, I can’t help but be grateful for the growing body of evidence which shows that focusing on “mindfulness practices” including spirituality and religion leads to better health and better communities. It’s certainly been my experience for more than 50 years.