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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 19:49 GMT 20:49 UK
Going to church may extend life
Christian imagery
Religion may be help to reduce a person's stress levels
Weekly religious attendance could add years to your life, according to a medical study carried out in the US.

The effects of exercise, religious attendance and anti-cholesterol drugs on life expectancy were examined.

All three were found to be beneficial, with religious attendance adding two to three years to your life.

The results of the research were published in the March-April issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Community factor?

Using age-dependent death-rate statistics, scientists from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that weekly attendance at religious services accounted for an additional two to three years.

Regular physical exercise clocked up an extra three to five years and cholesterol-reducing drugs such as Lipitor cholesterol about 2.5 to 3.5 years.

Study leader Daniel Hall, a resident in general surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told the LiveScience website that the benefits of religious attendance may stem more from social set-up, than faith.

"There is something about being knit into the type of community that religious communities embody that has a way of mediating a positive health effect," he said.

Financial cost

He also suggested that religion may have a role in reducing stress, or at least in boosting an individual's ability to cope.

"Being in a religious community helps you make meaning out of your life," he said.

However, such benefits do not come for free. The study estimated the cost of each year of life apparently gained by each method.

The costs were based on average gym fees, medical costs and household donations to religious institutions:

The approximate cost per life-year gained was:

  • $2,000 to $6,000 for regular exercise

  • $3,000 to $10,000 for regular religious attendance

  • $4,000 and $14,000 for cholesterol-lowering drugs.

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