The study uses life expectancy tables to compare the impact of regular exercise, statin therapy and religious attendance, and shows that each accounts for an additional two-to-five years of life, suggesting that the real-world, practical significance of weekly religious attendance is of similar magnitude to this other widely recommended therapy or health behavior.
"This is not to say that religious attendance should replace primary prevention such as exercise, or a proven drug therapy, such as statin therapy, but it does suggest that regular religious attendance is associated with a substantially longer life expectancy, and this warrants further research," cautions study author Daniel Hall, M.D., who is a resident in general surgery at UPMC and an Episcopal priest.
The goal, according to Dr. Hall, was to compare and quantify the extra years of life associated with regular religious attendance to activities known to extend life a primary prevention activity known to have health benefits (exercise) and a proven therapeutic regimen (statin therapy).
Hall's analysis shows regular physical exercise to be the most effective, accounting for 3.0-to-5.1 years of additional life over a lifetime. Although not as effective as regular exercise, both statins and religious attendance also accounted for longer life expectancy, with statins accounting for 2.1-to-3.7 additional years of life and regular religious attendance accounting for 1.8-to-3.1 additional years of life.