Social Services

By Vida Manzo | February 3, 2010 | 1 comment

Attending religious services might make you feel holier, but does it make you feel healthier?

That's what a group of researchers from University College London in the United Kingdom recently tried to find out. In their study, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, the researchers looked at a survey taken of 39,701 individuals ages 15 and over in 26 European countries. Those people reported how frequently they attended religious services (of any denomination and kind, besides social occasions like weddings or funerals) and assessed their own health; they also provided other details, such as their education level and degrees of social contact and isolation.

The results showed association between regular attendance (more than once a week) at religious services and good self-reported health across Europe. But there were some important qualifications. For one, this association was more true for men than for women, and it was also stronger for those with less education. Plus, one's amount of social contact mattered: Men who were the most socially isolated showed the strongest connection between attending services and positive health. These results were not as strong for women.

Based on their data, the researchers couldn't determine whether attending services directly caused people's health to improve, just that the two seemed linked. However, they speculate that attending religious services might improve health because it boosts social contact and decreases social isolation—factors that contribute to good health, according to other research. "Religious involvement may be a source of social capital and resilience," write the researchers, noting that the social contact services provide might offer special benefits to people at a high risk for stress, such as those from low socioeconomic backgrounds or of poor chronic health.

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure

About The Author

Vida Manzo is a Goldberg Undergraduate Research Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center.


Like this article?

Here's what you can do:


I have a chronic skin disease and have recently made the decision to stop attending church due to how angry it would make me.  It seems to me, society only has sympathy for diseases that are common, and are not unsightly.  I had this *silly* idea that people who attend church regularly would be more open-minded.  I was wrong.

Jill Kagey | 7:06 am, March 1, 2010 | Link

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017
Clark Kerr Campus, UC-Berkeley
Sunday, June 25 - Friday, June 30, 2017 OR Sunday, July 16 - Friday, July 21, 2017

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017

The GGSC’s six-day Summer Institute equips education professionals with prosocial learning strategies, tools and processes that benefit both students and teachers.


Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

Roots of Empathy By Mary Gordon Mary Gordon explains how best to nurture empathy and social emotional literacy in all children—and thereby reduce aggression, antisocial behavior, and bullying.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement