Participating in spiritual practices during childhood and adolescence may lead to positive health and well-being outcomes in early adulthood. According to a recent research, people who attended weekly religious services or practised daily prayer or meditation in their youth reported greater life satisfaction and positivity in their 20s. The study noted that these people were less likely to subsequently have depressive symptoms, smoke, use illicit drugs, or have a sexually transmitted infection than people raised with less regular spiritual habits.
Ying Chen, first author of the study suggested that, “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 behaviours, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”
For this study analysed health data from mothers in the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) and their children in the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS). The researchers controlled for many variables such as maternal health, socioeconomic status, and history of substance abuse or depressive symptoms, to try to isolate the effect of religious upbringing.
The results showed that people who attended religious services at least weekly in childhood and adolescence were approximately 18% more likely to report higher happiness as young adults (ages 23-30) than those who never attended services. They were also 29% more likely to volunteer in their communities and 33% less likely to use illicit drugs.
Those who prayed or meditated daily while growing up were 16% more likely to report higher happiness as young adults, 30% less likely to have started having sex at a young age, and 40% less likely to have a sexually transmitted infection compared to those who never prayed or meditated.
“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,” said Vander Weele, one of the researchers.
The study appears in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
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First Published: Sep 15, 2018 15:17 IST