Faith

New study says that raising children with religion could protect their mental health as they grow

A new study says that children who are raised in religious environments have long-lasting positive impacts made on their lives. (DOMINIC LIPINSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

A new study published last week in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found that children who are raised to have religious practices tend to fare better with their physical and mental health as they age.

What are the details?

The study, titled "Associations of Religious Upbringing With Subsequent Health and Well-Being From Adolescence to Young Adulthood: An Outcome-Wide Analysis," was was conducted by Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It found that children — as well as adults — who engaged in religious or spiritual practices were at a lower risk of mental health issues and substance abuse problems during their lives.

Approximately 5,000 people participated in the study, which was conducted on children for a period of anywhere from eight to 14 years. Researchers delved into how often children and adolescents attended church services with parents, as well as how often those same children and adolescents prayed or meditated on their own. Researchers then looked at the physical and mental health of those children as they grew into their 20s.

The average age of the minor participant was approximately 14 years old.

The study found that those children who attended church regularly as kids were approximately 18 percent more likely to report being happier in their 20s than those children who did not attend regular church services. Those same children who did attend services regularly were also approximately 30 percent more likely to volunteer, and 33 percent less likely to abuse drugs.

With regard to praying or meditating, those children who engaged in the spiritual practices regularly reported that they had a much greater satisfaction with their lives and had better grips on emotional growth. Those children were also less likely to engage in promiscuous sex, and thus less likely to contract an STD.

What did the study's authors have to say about their findings?

Study author Ying Chen said, "These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices. Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being."

Senior author Tyler VanderWeele added, "While decisions about religion are not shaped principally by health, for adolescents who already hold religious beliefs, encouraging service attendance and private practices may be meaningful avenues to protect against some of the dangers of adolescence, including depression, substance abuse, and risk taking."

"In addition, these practices may positively contribute to happiness, volunteering, a greater sense of mission and purpose, and to forgiveness," he added.

You can read the study in its entirety here and here.

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