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Religious Adults Have a Higher Quality of Life than Their Peers

Older individuals who are religious have a significantly enhanced quality of life in old age than nonreligious older Americans, and are more generous and less afraid of death than their less religious peers // , according to new research by Michele Dillon, professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire.

Based on longitudinal research conducted by Dillon and her collaborator, Paul Wink, professor of psychology at Wellesley College, religiousness plays a significant role in enhancing the quality of life in old age, even among seniors who are economically well off, and in good physical and mental health. Religious seniors are more involved in social activities such as visiting with family and friends, altruistic community activities and creative activities such as painting and craftwork.

When it comes to social responsibility and civic engagement, religious seniors are more giving and generous toward others, more aware of and sympathetic to the needs of others, and more involved in social activism (e.g. on behalf of homelessness, the environment), according to Dillon.

On the health front, the researchers found religious seniors in poor health were buffered against depression because of their religious involvement.

“For many in the study, their faith provided a strong source of meaning and consolation during illness and other times of adversity. Religious individuals also were more satisfied with life and had a stronger sense of having control over their lives than their nonreligious peers,” Dillon says.

Finally, those who were highly religious were the least afraid of dying; those who were moderately religious were the most afraid. Secular seniors had a similarly low fear of death.

“Religious individuals who believe in an afterlife and who attend church on a frequent basis are less afraid of death than those who believe in an afterlife but who don’t attend church,” Dillon says. “In short
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