Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US.
A recent article released by JAMA Psychiatry has revealed that women who self-reported attending church weekly showed 5 times lower risk of subsequent suicide compared to women who never attended services.
According to JAMA’s results, the research examined 89,708 women from Nurses’ Health Study who’d aged 30 to 55 years and attended religious services once a week or more. Their longitudinal analysis was carried out with these women, mostly Catholic or Protestant, from 1996 through 2010. The goal was to measure the association between “religious service attendance and suicide.” Research showed that the chances of suicide decreased when service attendance increased.
The authors identified 36 suicides in their follow-up.
Their study concluded stating “Religion and spirituality may be an under-appreciated resource that psychiatrists and clinicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate.”
This is not the first time church attendance has been mentioned concerning the benefits of mental health. In another study last year by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE epidemiologist Dr. Mauricio Avendano found that “The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life.”
Now what this isn’t saying is that women who don’t go to church are at risk to commit suicide and women who go to church aren’t. It would be foolish to be that general about the subject. Depression does not discriminate against race, age, gender or faith.
We know that research shows social support plays a critical role in the quality of mental health, physical health and even the risk of death.
Also, that psychologists are beginning to see the benefit of integrating spiritual approaches to treatment because there is, “in short, good scientifically based reason to be more sensitive to religion and spirituality in clinical practice” says Kenneth I. Pargament.
And in light of all that, here’s what I think…
In the field of Psychology, most pieces of research and evidence like this won’t be considered a “final conclusion” and especially not until more studies surface regarding the topic. However, it is more than clear to me that God has designed us to achieve our greatest fulfillment in Him and through a genuine soul flow with the people around us.
We were not created to endure life alone. God made it clear since the beginning of creation that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). This isn’t a suggestion; this is according to how we were created to operate in this world. What are the two greatest commandments?
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22: 37-39.
Our life, our mental health, is in position of it’s best potential when the two coexist. It’s not so surprising that God doesn’t just say things to say things, but literally for our health. And He would know, because, after all, He made us to operate this way- in relationship.
I know what it’s like to feel deeply alone and completely isolated. It can be a terribly dark place. You are incredibly vulnerable to your own devices in ways that would be less likely to affect you if the right people were surrounding you and edifying your personal connection to God. Community makes a world of a difference.
If there’s any takeaway for those in Christ or desiring to draw closer to God, my encouragement would be this: seek and stay connected to the body of Christ and be in submission to a genuine relationship with God. We were not meant to do life apart from Him or on our own island apart from relationship with people.
“Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25
I also understand that bad church experiences exist, and my heart goes out to anyone who’s endured church hurt. The church is made up of imperfect people just like the rest of the world and I hope this article I wrote will encourage your journey to continue to seek Christ and love people despite the offenses you may have faced. I pray that you’ll find a plug into the right faith community that fosters your soul in a healthy way.
Do you notice a beneficial mental heath difference in your personal experience of church attendance? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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VanderWeele T, Li S, Tsai A, Kawachi I. Association Between Religious Service Attendance and Lower Suicide Rates Among US Women. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016.
Attending church is the key to good mental health among older Europeans. The London School of Economics and Political Science. 2015.