Taylor: Delay the Pearly Gates: Join a church

Do happy, long-lived people join in more social activities and volunteer than grumpy people?

Postpone eternal life as long as possible—join a church!

That slogan sounds like a contradiction—don’t churches extol the glories of eternal life?

In fact, dozens of demographic studies have found that people who attend church regularly tend to live longer than non-attenders. Now psychologist Jonathan Haidt has provided some rationale for this extended longevity.

He cites two factors—volunteerism and altruism.

In his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt writes, “A study that tracked volunteering and well-being over many years, in thousands of people, was able to show a causal effect: When a person increased volunteer work, all measures of happiness and well-being increased afterwards…”

Correspondence doesn’t necessarily prove cause and effect. Volunteering may make people happy. On the other hand, maybe happy people are more likely to volunteer.

But consider the opposite—unhappy people are unlikely to volunteer. If they do, they do it grudgingly. Volunteer work does not make them cheerful.

Volunteering also enhances the social aspect of life. Haidt continues, “In old age, as social networks are thinned by the deaths of friends and family, the social benefits of volunteering are strongest.

“The elderly benefit even more than other adults, particularly when their volunteer work involves direct person-to-person helping, or is done through a religious organization. The benefits of volunteer work for the elderly are so large that they even show up in improved health and longer life.”

Another author, Charles Montgomery, argues in his book Happy City that “Social isolation may be the greatest environmental hazard of city living—worse than noise, pollution, or even crowding.”

Modern apartments and condominiums tend to minimize social interaction. You can live next door to someone, and never meet them. And the social media are anything but social. A Facebook friend can sympathize, but she cannot bring you a casserole when you’re crying.

Andre Picard notes, in the latest United Church Observer, “Loneliness is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; having no friends may increase the risk of premature death by about 30 per cent; social isolation can be twice as deadly as obesity, as big a killer as diabetes, and hikes the risk of dementia by 64 per cent.

“More Canadians than ever live alone, and one in four describe themselves as lonely. An estimated one in eight seniors lives a solitary life without friends or family. The rates are even higher for people with disabilities and those with severe mental illness…We have an epidemic of loneliness…”

Volunteering helps to reduce loneliness.

Of course, volunteering doesn’t have to happen through a church. Working through other social service agencies and clubs might offer the same benefits. So might any group activity.

But the altruism factor favours religious communities. “Altruistic activities add depth and virtue to one’s character,” Haidt notes.

The University of Michigan examined two groups—those who received help, and those who gave help. “Those who reported giving help…. went on to live longer,” Haidt concludes. “Whereas the amount of help that people reported receiving showed no relationship to longevity… At least for older people, it really is more blessed to give than to receive.”

There you are. Join a church, feel happier, and live longer.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Les Louis collaborated with Clint George to create the Pelmewash Parkway Indigenous sculptures in Lake Country. (Video still)
First Indigenous territory recognition made in Lake Country

Council makes historic move after Syilx artists create parkway sculptures

Thirty-four unionized workers represented by MoveUp started rotating job action at VantageOne Credit Union's two Vernon locations Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Workers are calling for basic job protection and fair security. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
VantageOne staff urged to take tentative deal in Vernon

It’s been more than one month since union workers went on strike

A part-time staff member at Vernon’s Chartwell Carrington Place Retirement Residence has tested positive for COVID-19, the seniors home’s general manager said Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Chartwell photo)
COVID-19 case confirmed at Vernon seniors home

An employee at Carrington Place has tested positive; Interior Health is not declaring an outbreak

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon COVID-19 care home deaths now up to 13

Another member of Noric House has passed

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)
General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health South Okanagan Similkameen

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Authorities have confirmed a case of COVID-19 within a school in Kelowna. Someone within the Rutland Elementary School community has tested positive. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express/FILE)
Authorities confirm COVID-19 exposure in Central Okanagan school

Interior Health (IH) states they will be following up with anyone potentially exposed

Most Read