Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders

Want to live longer and happier? According to two Canadian studies, it’s a matter of being “spiritual” and “religious”—although not necessarily both.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba recently found that attending worship services can lower the potential for suicide. Results from a study of 37,000 Canadian adults revealed that those who did not attend church or go to a synagogue were twice as likely to have attempted suicide. Those who simply considered themselves “spiritual,” however, were just as likely to have tried.

Oddly enough, a separate study of children showed a converse outcome for those considered either “religious” or “spiritual.” In this report, researchers from the University of British Columbia found that children ages 8 to 12 who are more spiritual tend to be happier, while kids who are simply religious aren’t. Led by Mark Holder, the study defined being spiritual as relying on an inner belief system for strength and comfort, and being religious included such things as attending church and participating in rituals.

“Our finding of a strong relation between happiness and spirituality in children, but not between happiness and frequency of religious practice, suggests that spirituality and religious practice can be empirically separated,” Holder said. “It is somewhat surprising that the relation between happiness and spirituality reported in the present study with children was stronger than that typically reported in adults.” [, 1/16/09;, 1/15/09]

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