Saturday, September 25, 2010

Leaving Your Faith Can Be Detrimental To Your Health

An interesting study is claiming that losing your religion could be bad for your health. Christopher Scheitle, senior research assistant, in sociology at Penn State asked an interesting question: 
"Previous research showed some association between belonging to a religious group and positive health outcomes," Scheitle said. "We became interested in what would happen to your health if you left a religious group. Would people demonstrate any negative health outcomes?"
Before I share the results of the study,  the subjects of the study is almost as interesting as the results itself and the conclusion is almost so obvious that a research study of this kind isn't required. But its nice to have science confirm the obvious. Researchers were studying the health effects of those who left a "strict religion." What religions did they classify as a strict religion? They were looking at people who had left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or Jehovah's Witnesses who are known for being an exclusive faith with rigid codes dietary, social, moral and physical standards.
As a result, this study should be of interest to the LDS Community regardless if they are in the community or have left it. 
What did the study find? Here are the results: 
"About 40 percent of members of strict religious groups reported they were in excellent health, according to the study. However, only 25 percent of members in those groups who switched to another religion reported they were in excellent health. The percentage of the strict religious group members who dropped out of religion completely and said their health was excellent fell to 20 percent. The difference between switchers and non-switchers, in reference to health, is statistically significant for the strict groups.
The study also indicated that people who were raised and remained in strict religious groups were more likely to report they were in better health than people affiliated with other religious groups."
The reasons for why people who left the LDS Church or Jehovah's Witnesses is pretty obvious if you think about it. Leaving a group that promotes a healthy lifestyle and strong social bonds may result in a reduction in one's health. Of course, its possible that that might not be true if someone replaces one healthy lifestyle for another. However, having poor health might be a cause for leaving the Church as well since unhealthy people may find it harder to find enjoyment in a organization that follows a strict health lifestyle. 
For those of you who are in or out of the LDS Church, do you agree with the findings of this study?

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