- TORONTO - Going to church
may not guarantee you a heavenly afterlife, but it will help you live longer
in the here and now, according to research by a medical professor at the
University of Toronto.
- Dr. Chandrakant Shah, a physician and professor of public
health sciences, says a fifth of all Canadian deaths -- about 43,000 deaths
each year -- can be blamed on poor spiritual beliefs. Dr. Shah says that
if Canadians attended religious services more frequently, said their prayers
more often, or placed more faith in the powers of a celestial creator,
they would live longer and healthier lives.
- "There are beneficial results from being a spiritual
person," he says in research released yesterday. "It reduces
stress, promotes healthy lifestyles and increases social connectedness:
all improve the health and well-being of individuals and are associated
with lower mortality."
- The study is the first in Canada to take a widely held
academic assumption that spiritual people have healthier lives and apply
that theory to Canadian public health and mortality statistics.
- Dr. Shah describes spirituality not only as a belief
in God or participation in traditional religion, but as "the beliefs,
values and behaviours a person holds concerning his place in the universe,
and which reflects one's connections with a higher power and one's social
and physical environment."
- He says spirituality takes two forms. The inner form
involves faith in a "higher power" and the sense of security
or "inner peace" that comes from that faith. The outer form involves
the connection someone feels with their fellow humans.
- Feeling more connected makes someone more "caring,
sharing, compassionate and respectful" as an individual, says Dr.
- If spirituality brings more "inner peace,"
it also lessens the need for "pleasure-seeking behaviours" --
drinking, smoking, gluttony, promiscuous sex or material gain. The study
says that both forms of spiritual faith bring with them better physical
- "Many individuals consider that having material
things such as a Mercedes or Lexus will make them happy," writes Dr.
Shah, who describes himself as a spiritual, but non-religious person. "To
achieve material gains, people are constantly on the go and face all types
of stress ... However, people with inner peace are contented people and
are not in a rat race."
- Drawing data from Canada's National Population Health
Surveys in the mid-1990s, Dr. Shah used three measurements to gauge the
spirituality of Canadians -- weekly attendance at religious activities,
levels of "social connectedness" [or personal relationships]
and levels of personal stress.
- With information from those studies -- including the
fact that in 1997 only 59% of Canadians took part in regular religious
worship -- Dr. Shah used epidemiological formulae to calculate that 43,000
deaths each year are "potentially attributable" to low levels
- If as many as 80% of Canadians participated in weekly
worship, the research predicts the number of deaths attributable to low
levels of spirituality would fall to 23,000.
- SIGHTINGS HOMEPAGE
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