The Bible tells us that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). So often what passes for “news” is really nothing more than a refresher. A case in point is a new study from published this month in the American Journal of Epidemiology about the link between religious upbringing and subsequent health and well-being.
One not-so-surprising finding of the study, which was done by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is that, “Compared with no attendance, at least weekly attendance of religious services was associated with greater life satisfaction and positive affect, a number of character strengths, lower probabilities of marijuana use and early sexual initiation, and fewer lifetime sexual partners.” Additionally, among the studies’ participants:
“Compared with never praying or meditating, at least daily practice was associated with greater positive affect, emotional processing, and emotional expression; greater volunteering, greater sense of mission, and more forgiveness; lower likelihoods of drug use, early sexual initiation, STIs, and abnormal Pap test results; and fewer lifetime sexual partners.”
These findings aren’t a surprise to us here at FRC. For years, we’ve seen this in practice, and in data like those published by our friend Pat Fagan at the Marriage and Religion Research Institute. It is a demonstrable fact that when faith is allowed to flourish, good outcomes are in store for society at large.
The study’s author observes,
“These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices. Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”
Of course, we know that “faith” in a generic sense doesn’t always guarantee a comfortable outcome, but an abiding faith in Jesus Christ can anchor a person’s soul for whatever he or she may face in life. A study like this won’t necessarily cause people to embrace faith, but it does show that a society in which religious liberty thrives will be a healthier society. And any government that wants to promote the well-being of its people should give ample space for people to have the freedom to believe and to live out those beliefs.
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.