Did you know going to church was good for your heath, your well-being and would help to prolong your marriage? No, not a new revelation, a number of studies have found similar results, namely, those who attend religious services are about 30 to 50 percent less likely to divorce than those who don’t.
The research results on this topic was courtesy of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and it has linked religious service attendance to quite a few better health outcomes including longer life, less depression and self-harm.
Less Chance of Divorce
It also found better marriage stability, that is, less likelihood of divorce, as a result of attending religious services on a regular basis.
It has been suggested there is a possibility those who were contemplating divorce are less likely to maintain a regular attendance at these religious services however, the study went further into the timing of changes in religious services attendance and were able to control for this possibility.
The results overall, did not change. Those who attend religious services are 47 percent less likely to subsequently divorce.
Researcher Tyler J. VanderWeele said similar studies over many years had reached the same conclusion. He asked, “Why might religious service attendance protect against the likelihood of divorce?”
“More research into the precise mechanisms is still needed but a number of factors seem like logical possibilities which should be investigated further.”
1. Religious teachings often indicate marriage is something sacred—an important bond is created in the exchange of marriage vows. Attending religious services reinforces this message.
2. Religious teachings also discourage or censure divorce to varying degrees across religious traditions which may lead to lower rates of divorce; moreover, religious traditions often have strong teachings against adultery which is one of the strongest predictors of divorce.
3. Religious teachings often place a strong emphasis on love and on putting the needs of others above one’s own. This may also improve the quality of married life and lower the likelihood of divorce.
4. Religious institutions often provide various types of family support, including a place for families to get to know one another and build relationships, programs for children, marital and pre-marital counselling, retreats and workshops focused on building a good marriage. Religious communities can provide important resources for a healthy marriage.
5. Finally, other research indicates religious service attendance is associated with a number of other positive results For example, research at Harvard indicates regular religious service attendance is associated with a lower risk of dying over a 16-year follow-up and also a lower incidence of depression. Additional research finds religious service attendance is associated with greater levels of meaning in life and greater levels of happiness. These things are generally associated with greater marital satisfaction and a lower likelihood of divorce. So religious service attendance, by improving other aspects of life, may also indirectly support marriage.
Religious Practice Is Powerful
VanderWeele said religion is about both communion with God and the restoration of all people to their intended state of complete wholeness and well-being. The evidence suggests it can indeed accomplish both.
“The communal aspect of religious attendance does seem to be important. With the various health outcomes, it appears to be religious service attendance—rather than self-assessed spirituality or private practice—which matters the most,” he said. Something about the communal religious experience is powerful.
VanderWeele again, “People, of course, do not become religious just for health reasons or to avoid divorce, but for those who already consider themselves religious, service attendance can provide a critical support.
“Religious practice, whether communally or between spouses, is powerful. Indeed, other research suggests shared family religious activities and praying together are likewise associated with greater relationship satisfaction and greater levels of trust.
“Shared religious activities like praying together may help couples deal with stress, and allow them to focus on shared beliefs and hopes for the future and deal constructively with problems in their relationship.
“Thus, for those who already consider themselves religious, both religious service attendance and joint prayer may be vital resources for strengthening marriage and trust, and for promoting happier, healthier, and fuller lives.”
John Skinner served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam then the Tasmanian Police before taking up the position of CEO of the Australian Rough Riders Association (professional rodeo based in Warwick Qld). Before retirement to his small farm, he was a photo-journalist for 25 years. He is married with 3 children and 6 grandchildren.
John Skinner's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-skinner.html