It may or may not be divine intervention, but it seems that religious people tend to live up to six years longer than atheists or agnostics.
Although backed by little scientific evidence, a new study has analysed just over 1,600 American local newspaper obituaries – and it discovered that religious followers often live for up to six years more than their faithless counterparts.
The study was conducted after previous investigations were faced with the issue of religious followers exaggerating how often they worship.
Instead, Laura Wallace and a team at the Ohio State University scoured through newspaper obituary pages for their studies.
The research looked at 505 articles that appeared in the Des Moines Register across two months in 2012.
They discovered that the obituaries with a religious affiliation often lived six and a half years longer than the others, even when gender and marital status were accounted for.
But while the majority of research has been carried out in America, where evangelical Christianity is dominant, experts say that a similar effect is likely to be documented in Britain.
A similar study also showed a similar albeit smaller effect – with 1096 obituaries from 42 cities showing that the religious tend to die some 3.8 years later than the non-religious.
Describing the study, Wallace said: ‘The positive health effects of religion spill over to the non-religious in some specific situations.
‘The spillover effect only occurs in highly religious cities that aren’t too concerned about everyone conforming to the same norms. In those areas, non-religious people tend to live as long as do religious people.’