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Church and youth group participation has a “protective” effect on adolescence, according to an extensive study. And one of its authors warns that any exodus caused by recent church sex-abuse scandals may have lasting public-health implications.
Based on an eight-year longitudinal study of 5,000 adolescents, Harvard epidemiology professors Ying Chen and Tyler VanderWeele conclude that “for adolescents who already hold religious beliefs, encouraging [worship] service attendance and private [religious] practices may be meaningful avenues of development and support, possibly leading to better health and well-being.”
Data - Today - Study - Researchers - Teens
Analyzing data from the “Growing Up Today Study,” researchers found that teens who attend church at least weekly have “greater life satisfaction and positive affect” compared to non-attenders. Participating in faith communities also has “protective factors,” decreasing adolescents’ likelihood of depression by 12 percent and their use of illicit drugs by 33 percent. Religious upbringing also is associated with “higher levels of happiness, of a sense of purpose, of volunteering, and of forgiveness of others.”
Teens who regularly pray or meditate, the study shows, are 30 percent less likely to become sexually active at a young age and 40 percent less likely to get an STD. Frequent prayer is associated with more physical health problems, however, possibly because “individuals with chronic conditions are more likely to use private religious practices to cope with illness.”
Religion - Health - Benefits - Sources - Researchers
Religion’s health benefits come from various sources, researchers say. For example, faith teachings help teenagers “maintain self-control and develop negative attitudes toward certain behaviors,” such as smoking. Practices such as forgiveness and meditation “help youth actively cope with...
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