Duke study suggests that churchgoing aids health Attending services might help fight stress


Regular attendance at religious services does a lot for the soul, but now researchers at Duke University Medical Center say it may help the body as well.

In a survey of older North Carolinians, the researchers found that those who attended services at least once a week were much less likely to have high blood levels of interleukin-6, an immune-system protein associated with many age-related diseases.

The researchers, Dr. Harold Koenig and Dr. Harvey Cohen, said they could not explain the findings but suggested that attending services might help counteract stress.

"Perhaps religious participation enhances immune functioning by yet unknown mechanisms, such as through feelings of belonging, togetherness, even perhaps the experience of worship and adoration," Koenig said.

The researchers said they studied interleukin-6 because it was a good marker for a number of conditions, including some cancers, autoimmune disorders and certain viral diseases. Cohen said his earlier research had shown an association between high levels of the immune-system protein and difficulty with routine tasks like walking, dressing and cooking.

The researchers discounted the possibility that their findings might be skewed because healthy people would be more likely to attend services. They said many of the participants in their study were regulars at church despite severe disabilities.

The study, reported in a recent issue of the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, involved 1,718 adults over age 65, who were some of the 4,000 North Carolinians participating in a larger study, financed by the National Institute on Aging, on the health of the elderly.

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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