Healthy interest in religion

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The Independent Online
Religion is good for your health, American scientists have discovered. People who go to church live longer, happier lives than those who worship at home, while atheists can look forward to depression, physical illness, and suicide.

Dr Harold Koenig, of Duke University, North Carolina, surveyed 4,000 elderly people in the state. It is the largest population sample yet surveyed to discover the effects of religious observance.

But watching Songs of Praise on television is no substitute for actually going to church, he found. People whose only religious activity was evangelical programmes suffered higher rates of depression and higher rates of physical illness than the church-goers.

Appropriately, Dr Koenig presented his results to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science yesterday - a Sunday.

And prayer can improve your physical as well as your mental health, apparently, according to Dale Matthews of Georgetown University, Washington. About 200 patients in a San Francisco hospital did better with "prayer support" as well as their ordinary medication.

Dr Koenig said, "Stress and despair arise from the feeling you're alone, that there is nothing you can do about a situation. People who believe in God feel there is someone watching out for them, someone who has divine control of their destiny. Life doesn't have to make sense to them, as long as they put their trust in an all-powerful, caring and loving God."

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