A new study concludes children raised in faith-filled homes tend to have better physical and mental health as they progress into their 20s.
The study — “Associations of Religious Upbringing With Subsequent Health and Well-Being From Adolescence to Young Adulthood: An Outcome-Wide Analysis” — was conducted by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and was published last week in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Roughly 5,000 children, ages 8 to 14, participated in the study.
The data revealed that kids who attended church services or practiced daily prayer and meditation growing up reported greater life satisfaction in early adulthood, with better mental and physical health.
.@HFatHarvard researchers found that people who participated in spiritual practices during their youth were less likely to have depressive symptoms, smoke, use illicit drugs, or have a sexually transmitted infection as adults https://t.co/nenGS01S4g pic.twitter.com/DEMHsjCEe4
— HarvardPublicHealth (@HarvardChanSPH) September 16, 2018
“These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices,” the study’s lead author, Ying Chen, said of the results. “Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”
Those raised in religious homes are also 30 percent less likely to have started engaging in sex at a young age and are, as a result, 40 percent less likely than their non-religious peers to have sexually transmitted diseases.
“While decisions about religion are not shaped principally by health, for adolescents who already hold religious beliefs, encouraging service attendance and private practices may be meaningful avenues to protect against some of the dangers of adolescence, including depression, substance abuse, and risk taking,” Tyler VanderWeele, the study’s senior author, explained.
VanderWeele added those who grew up religiously often also boast greater tendencies toward volunteerism, have a larger capacity for forgiveness and feel a deeper sense of purpose and mission.