Atheism and life expectancy

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The prestigious Mayo Clinic found that that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better physical health, mental health, health-related quality of life and other health outcomes.[1]

The Independent reported:

Religious people live on average four years longer than their agnostic and atheist peers, new research has found.

The difference between practising worshippers and those who were not part of a religious group could be down to a mix of social support, stress-relieving practices and abstaining from unhealthy habits, the authors suggest.

For the study, a team of Ohio University academics, including associate professor of psychology Christian End, analysed more than 1,500 obituaries from across the US to piece together how the defining features of our lives affect our longevity.

These records include religious affiliations and marriage details as well as information on activities, hobbies and habits, which can help or hinder our health, not otherwise captured in census data.

The study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science today, found that on average people whose obituary mentioned they were religious lived an extra 5.64 years.

Life expectancy was still 3.82 years longer in religious people when they statistically controlled for marriage rates, a factor which has been shown to increase life expectancy and help stave off disease. [2]

Christian apologist Michael Caputo wrote about atheism and marriage:

Recently the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has published its mammoth study on Religion in America based on 35,000 interviews... According to the Pew Forum a whopping 37% of atheists never marry as opposed to 19% of the American population, 17% of Protestants and 17% of Catholics.[3]

Theodore Beale declared that according to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) "more than half of all atheists and agnostics don’t get married."[4]

The Iona Institute reported:

A meta-analysis of all studies, both published and unpublished, relating to religious involvement and longevity was carried out in 2000. Forty-two studies were included, involving some 126,000 subjects. Active religious involvement increased the chance of living longer by some 29%, and participation in public religious practices, such as church attendance, increased the chance of living longer by 43%.[5]

The journal article Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications published in the journal International Scholar Research Notes Psychiatry by Harold G. Koenig stated concerning religion/spirituality (R/S):

The most impressive research on the relationship between R/S and physical health is in the area of mortality. The cumulative effect of R/S, if it has any benefits to physical health, ought to reveal itself in an effect on mortality. The research suggests it does. At least 121 studies have examined relationships between R/S and mortality. Most of these are prospective cohort studies, where baseline R/S is assessed as a predictor of mortality during the observation period, controlling for confounders. Of those studies, 82 (68%) found that greater R/S predicted significantly greater longevity (three at a trend level), whereas six studies (5%) reported shorter longevity. Considering the 63 methodologically most rigorous studies (quality ratings of 8 or higher), 47 (75%) found R/S predicting greater longevity (two at trend level) [548–566], whereas three (5%) reported shorter longevity [567–569]. Another systematic review [570] and two meta-analyses [571, 572] have confirmed this relationship between R/S and longer survival. The effects have been particularly strong for frequency of attendance at religious services in these three reviews. Survival among frequent attendees was increased on average by 37%, 43%, and 30% (mean effect being 37% across these reviews). An increased survival of 37% is highly significant and equivalent to the effects of cholesterol lowering drugs or exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation after myocardial infarction on survival [573].[6]

See also


  1. Mueller, Dr. Paul S. et al. (December 2001). "Religious involvement, spirituality, and medicine: implications for clinical practice". Mayo Clinic Proceedings vol. 76:12, pp. 1225-1235. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic Proceedings website on July 20, 2014.
  2. Religious people live four years longer than atheists, study finds, The Independent, 2018
  3. Atheism by Ken Ammi
  4. Atheism by Ken Ammi
  5. Multiple references:
  6. Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications, International Scholar Research Notes Psychiatry by Harold G. Koenig, 2012