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Harvard study reveals the benefits of childhood church-going

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A religious upbringing is directly linked to positive outcomes in young adult years.

Raising our kids with faith obviously gives them many spiritual benefits, but a recent study by Harvard has also shown that children with a religious upbringing benefit physically and mentally, too, especially as young adults.

The study, released in 2018 by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, found that children who attended Mass weekly, or had an active prayer life, were more positive and had greater life satisfaction once they reached their twenties. These young adults had a tendency to choose a healthier lifestyle — avoiding drinking, smoking, drug use, and sexual promiscuity.

Using a sample of 5,000 children over a period of 8-14 years, the study revealed some impressive findings: At least 18% of regular churchgoers reported higher levels of happiness in their twenties than their non-religious peers. And more importantly, out of the same sample, 29% tended to join in community causes, and 33% stayed away from illicit drugs.

One of the study’s authors, Ying Chen, said of the findings in a press release: “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.”

This isn’t the first study to demonstrate the advantages of a religious upbringing, and as the director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, Emilie Kao, shares in Stream.org, these findings are consistent with other studies that find “religious beliefs give people spiritual strengths that lead to healthy habits and build their social networks and gives them the ability to overcome obstacles in their lives.”

These results are particularly encouraging at a time when the numbers of regular churchgoers seem to be in decline. The study might help to serve as a motivator for parents struggling to get reluctant kids to church — especially in the teen years.

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