Study shows that attending religious services can lead to longer, healthier life

KAPAA — A new study found that people who attend regular religious services tend to live less stressful and healthier lives.

The study by Vanderbilt University professor Marino Bruce, who also is a Baptist minister, said those who attend church, synagogues, mosques or other houses of worship live longer.

Pastor Jed Young of Kapaa Missionary Church said spiritual health has a direct correlation with physical and mental health.

“People are able to deal with things through their faith,” Young said. “They’re able to have more of a positive outlook and they have different things they can go to, in terms of reading Scripture that gives them encouragement, prayer and bring forth their concerns and struggles that they have.”

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. They filtered the data set, using 5,449 participants men and women from all races.

The study analyzed participants in terms of their worship attendance, mortality and allostatic load. Higher allostatic loads were acknowledged as signs of stress.

Young said people go to service not just to strengthen their relationship with their faith, but to build relationships.

“Even if you’re not a Christian, you still go through difficulties,” he said. “There is a loss of loved ones, there are struggles at home, but there’s a greater support for people. And that really does help people get through things. And I see it in people’s lives. People find what they need through relationships and through their faith.”

For the past 20 years, Stephanie Gersaba has attended Kapaa Missionary Church. Before she began going to church, she said she was an “angry, nasty person.”

“I didn’t see the world in another way, that there is love,” she said. “Going to church has helped me relax and be calmer, to deal with life in better ways than using anger or trying to get even with someone. It’s helped me raise my boys to teach them how life is here to enjoy it, not destroy it.”

The 62-year-old adopted her three grandchildren a few years back and has raised them to find enjoyment in life — something that she took for granted growing up.

“When I first walked into Kapaa Missionary 20 years ago, I knew it was the place for me. This was my church. I was going through a divorce the same week, so when I walked into that church I just knew,’ she said.

“I believe that without God, my life would be upside down,” Gersaba said. “It would be chaos.”

Chaos would be how Robert Kubota would describe his physical health and marriage before strengthening his bond with God and church.

“Everyone hits rock bottom. I didn’t see it as my rock bottom, but I was making bad choices. Ungodly choices,” he said. “I had to hang on to somebody and that somebody was God.”

Kubota, 36, attended preschool at Kapaa Missionary Church growing up and said going to church with his grandmother was all he really knew growing up. He didn’t understand the importance of having a strong spirit until recently.

“My wife and I were having a rough time. It took about two years of rough times and faithful prayers and I’m proud to say that my wife and I are back together, 100 percent.”

Kubota said a lot of people turn to God in times of physical difficulties, when they’re down or out.

“For myself, my physical health wasn’t on my mind until I really started thinking about my son and wife,” Kubota said. “The fact is that I’m putting my family in my mind now thanks to God. The spiritual side will always be there, but I think when that spiritual side comes first, it’s like God wants me to take care of myself.”

He said people don’t have to attend weekly services to strengthen their spirit and become a healthier person because that is a decision that, ultimately, comes from within.

“Church is just a building and a place to go to,” Kubota said. “It’s about how you walk around with God.”

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