Religion and faith practices have been a part of human societies for centuries and continue to play a significant role in the lives of people all over the world. It provides a sense of purpose, meaning and belonging with a wide range of impacts on an individual’s life, including physical, psychological, social, and cultural. Here are some ways that religion impacts your life according to science.
Physical health benefits
Religion is linked to better overall health. Religious people are more likely to consult a doctor than their non-religious counterparts. They are more likely to live healthier lifestyles because most religious traditions have prescriptions about diet with rules against things like alcohol consumption and smoking both of which are linked to negative health outcomes.
One study found that people who regularly attend religious meetings had lower blood pressure compared to those who don’t attend any. In fact, people who attend more regularly had even lower blood pressure than those who do it sporadically. It may be because of social contact and decreased stress. Religious people also live longer than non-religious people.
Mental health and social benefits
A study by the Pew Research Center found that religious people are more engaged with their families, more likely to get involved in their communities and generally happier. These social networks and close ties lead to more life satisfaction and happiness. Religious people have a sense of purpose, belonging and meaning which is great for mental health. When paired with doing good, such as engaging in charity, this sense of purpose can have a powerfully positive effect on a person’s mental health. Social connection, support and connection to something larger than one’s self are beneficial for mental health.
Religious people have higher self-esteem and better psychological adjustment, but this depends on location. These benefits are most enjoyed by those in places where religion is dominant and widespread. So a religious person is more likely to get this self-esteem boost in devout Turkey more than in secular Sweden.
Religious people are also soothed by their faith when they deal with struggles like anxiety and depression. Belief in a caring God is a game-changer. It leads to a decrease in stress and anxiety. Decreased levels of stress and anxiety can also have an impact on physical health, improving outcomes.
Religious people also have greater resilience when it comes to facing life’s challenges. This must also be a factor based on the belief in a caring God who is looking out for them. When they do need help, the community they have can support them when they’re facing life’s challenges in a way that people who are not religious and do not have that community lack. In a world that’s increasingly stratified with people more and more isolated and lonelier than ever before with compounding existential challenges, religious people have a great thing going for them.
It’s important to note that these impacts are not universal. They vary depending on the specific religious tradition, the individual’s beliefs and the cultural context. Certain religious groups have such strict and punitive requirements and excessively exerting physical requirements that end up being detrimental to their members. Some religious groups can also be so isolating, restricting members’ social interactions enough to induce loneliness. There can be increased stress in religious groups that put great emphasis on guilt and shame. There can also be increased stress and anxiety from religious conflicts and moral dilemmas. Depending on where the person is their religious group could face discrimination and prejudice which can negatively impact physical and mental health.
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