Belief In Afterlife
Can Make You
Live Longer
Richard Foot - The National Post
TORONTO - Going to church may not guarantee you a heavenly afterlife, but it will help you live longer in the here and now, according to research by a medical professor at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Chandrakant Shah, a physician and professor of public health sciences, says a fifth of all Canadian deaths -- about 43,000 deaths each year -- can be blamed on poor spiritual beliefs. Dr. Shah says that if Canadians attended religious services more frequently, said their prayers more often, or placed more faith in the powers of a celestial creator, they would live longer and healthier lives.
"There are beneficial results from being a spiritual person," he says in research released yesterday. "It reduces stress, promotes healthy lifestyles and increases social connectedness: all improve the health and well-being of individuals and are associated with lower mortality."
The study is the first in Canada to take a widely held academic assumption that spiritual people have healthier lives and apply that theory to Canadian public health and mortality statistics.
Dr. Shah describes spirituality not only as a belief in God or participation in traditional religion, but as "the beliefs, values and behaviours a person holds concerning his place in the universe, and which reflects one's connections with a higher power and one's social and physical environment."
He says spirituality takes two forms. The inner form involves faith in a "higher power" and the sense of security or "inner peace" that comes from that faith. The outer form involves the connection someone feels with their fellow humans.
Feeling more connected makes someone more "caring, sharing, compassionate and respectful" as an individual, says Dr. Shah.
If spirituality brings more "inner peace," it also lessens the need for "pleasure-seeking behaviours" -- drinking, smoking, gluttony, promiscuous sex or material gain. The study says that both forms of spiritual faith bring with them better physical health.
"Many individuals consider that having material things such as a Mercedes or Lexus will make them happy," writes Dr. Shah, who describes himself as a spiritual, but non-religious person. "To achieve material gains, people are constantly on the go and face all types of stress ... However, people with inner peace are contented people and are not in a rat race."
Drawing data from Canada's National Population Health Surveys in the mid-1990s, Dr. Shah used three measurements to gauge the spirituality of Canadians -- weekly attendance at religious activities, levels of "social connectedness" [or personal relationships] and levels of personal stress.
With information from those studies -- including the fact that in 1997 only 59% of Canadians took part in regular religious worship -- Dr. Shah used epidemiological formulae to calculate that 43,000 deaths each year are "potentially attributable" to low levels of spirituality.
If as many as 80% of Canadians participated in weekly worship, the research predicts the number of deaths attributable to low levels of spirituality would fall to 23,000.


This Site Served by TheHostPros