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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Going to church is good for your health

Older people who go to church have better mental health, a new study has found.

The study by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin uncovers some of the relationships between faith and mental health in Ireland.

The research, involving over 6,000 adults aged 50+, found that a majority of over 50s in Ireland attend religious services regularly, and that regular religious attendance was associated with lower depressive symptoms in this population.

The relationship between being religious and mental health was complex, however. Those with higher religious attendance had lower depressive symptoms, but those who said that religion was very important to them, but who did not attend church very frequently, had worse mental health.

Religious attendance was also related to having a bigger social network, which in turn had a positive effect on the mental health of the population.

Joanna Orr, TILDA researcher and lead author, said: “This new research shows that religious belief and practice in the over 50s in Ireland is complexly associated with mental wellbeing.

“Considering the decline in religious practice in Ireland, it is important to assess how this may affect those who are religious. Maintenance of religious practice, as well as the maintenance and bolstering of social networks and social participation, is important.”

Picture: A woman prays with rosary beads. (Kelly Redinger/Zuma Press/PA).