If your family doesn’t regularly attend church, it may be because you believe it has little to offer you. But a growing body of scientific and sociological research suggests that there are a variety of benefits to those who engage in church life that aren’t always readily apparent.
1. Health and Wellness. Church-goers live longer and enjoy better overall health than the general population. Why, you ask? According to preventative medicine expert Dr. Lynda Powell of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, the answer may lie, at least in part, in the positive lifestyle choices churches promote. Most religious organizations discourage habits like smoking, infidelity, and other risky behaviors. They also provide parishioners with positives like a social network—essential to emotional well-being—and promote habits like meditation and prayer.
2. Happiness. According to the Pew Research Center, frequent church-goers are happier. Those who attend religious services weekly or more often are happier than are those attending less often. Those who seldom or never attend services are the least likely to say they are very happy.
3. Marriage. Couples who attend church together report being more happily married and are less likely to divorce. Drawing upon three national surveys, University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox found that married church-going Americans—across racial and denominational classifications—were more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” in their marriages than non-religious respondents. Couple who attended church together regularly were also less likely to divorce. Interestingly, the increase in happiness and stability only seems to come to those couples who attend together.
4. Benefits to the Children. In a study compiling the independent findings of more than 100 social scientists, Dr. Pat Fagan of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion found that churched children are less likely to get divorced later in life, are more able to overcome poverty, and exhibit better academic performance. He also cites evidence that children who attend church regularly are less likely to engage in sexual activity as teens, and are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.