Why Faith is Good for your Health

Dan Peterson shares the sad story of a young man who left the Church and later took his life.  Dan points out positives associated with faith.

Peterson quotes Bertrand Russell’s dreary thoughts about the pointlessness of life.

Bertrand Russell

“That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave;

that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the débris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.

Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

 

The best solution to lack of faith and despair is a return to faith and hope.

Among other things, Peterson shared research by Harvard scholars and compared C.S. Lewis’ life to Freud’s.  They correlated better mental health with faith and church attendance.

Youth Religious Practice and Health Benefits

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Youths who regularly attend religious services, pray or meditate may get a well-being boost that sticks around into young adulthood, according to a new Harvard study that joins a body of research showing benefits from religiosity.

Senior author and epidemiologist Tyler J. VanderWeele knows most people don’t make decisions about religion based on health, but rather on beliefs, values, experiences and relationships. “However, for parents and children who already hold religious beliefs, such religious and spiritual practices could be encouraged both for their own sake as well as to promote health and well-being,” said Vanderweele, a professor in Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, by VanderWeele and Harvard research scientist Ying Chen, is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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Among the findings, youths who attended religious services at least weekly as children and adolescents were:

  • About 18 percent more apt to report higher happiness between ages 23-30 than those who didn’t
  • 29 percent more likely to be volunteers
  • 33 percent less likely to use illegal drugs

Those who prayed or meditated at least daily as kids were, as young adults:

  • 16 percent more likely to report higher happiness
  • 30 percent less likely to have sex at a young age
  • 40 percent less likely to have a sexually transmitted disease

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The researchers said while adult literature indicates worship service attendance has greater impact on health, compared to meditation and prayer, for youths the benefits are equal or perhaps even slightly less.

“One possible explanation is religious attendance patterns may be shaped by parents, but prayer and meditation may reflect their own beliefs, Chen said.

You may read the rest of the article here.

LDS Youth with SSA and suicide

LDS critics often charge that our faith and its policies precipitate and trigger suicide.

To properly speak on this topic, one should understand quite a lot.   I’ll link a few articles below that only skim the surface, but will begin to inform readers of at least a few of the many associated variables.

Engaging in this complex issue with unsupported allegations — often done by LDS critics — is highly irresponsible.

This entire blog, written on 1/31/16, is worth reading:

About that claim of suicides by LDS teens with same-sex attraction

Key paragraph:

“None other than the Salt Lake Tribune, always anxious to find ways to criticize the Church, went looking for information to corroborate the claim of “32 suicides.” But, in a strange twist, actual journalism took place at the Tribune, and they were forced to report that there is no evidence of that many of suicides:

Trouble is, the number far exceeds the suicide figures collected by the Utah Department of Health.

 

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Preliminary figures for November and December show 10 suicides in the Beehive State for people ages 14 to 20, with two more cases “undetermined.”

In fact, the department reports, the overall number of Utah deaths for that age group in those months was 25, including the 10 suicides and two “undetermined” cases, along with 11 in accidents, one by natural causes and one homicide.

“We monitor the numbers [of youth suicides] very closely. We review them every month,” says Teresa Brechlin, who works in the department’s violence- and injury-prevention program. “If we had seen such a huge spike, we would have been investigating it.”

Had there been any mention of the LDS Church’s policy on gays, her department “would have noted that,” Brechlin adds. “We have not seen that at all.”

Other paragraphs make the point that depression and suicide are extremely complex.  No one factor triggers suicide.

 

Two additional links related to suicide data:

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  1.  University of Utah research shows high altitude linked to depression and suicidal thoughts: 

“People with depression tend to have less efficient energy utilization in certain parts of their brain, like the prefrontal cortex,” said Brent Kious, a U. psychiatry professor and the review’s lead author. This energy roadblock, he said, means people have a tougher time overcoming negative emotions.

It turns out other mountainous states have similarly high suicide rates, with Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico also in the top five and Alaska ranked second, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This trend has earned the Intermountain West a morbid nickname: the suicide belt.

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The U. researchers reviewed several U.S. studies that found suicide rates increased with altitude. One that examined nearly 9,000 suicide deaths in 2006 across 15 states found the suicide rate at high altitudes was three times higher than for those living near sea level. Another study noted a “threshold effect,” where suicide rates increased dramatically between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. Salt Lake City’s altitude is 4,265 feet.

Scientists in other countries have discovered similar associations, the U. review found. Suicide rates in Andalusia, a mountainous region of Spain, were higher than the country’s average, a finding correlated with high altitude. In Saudi Arabia, the prevalence of suicidal thoughts among depressed patients at a high-elevation psychiatric hospital was more than five times higher than at a sea level one.

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These studies have piled up in recent years, Kious said, including several conducted by researchers at the U.  One 2015 study showed how exposure to altitude led to more depression-like behavior in female rats. After a week of thin air, the rats were less likely to struggle in a swim test.

 

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#2  Ben Shapiro points out recent spike in youth suicides with lack-of-faith connection

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, youth suicide is in the midst of a precipitous and frightening rise. Between 2006 and 2016, suicides by white children between ages 10 and 17 skyrocketed 70%; while black children are less likely than white children to kill themselves, their suicide rate also jumped 77%. And as The Blaze points out, CNN reported last year that “the suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 rose to a 40-year high in 2015.”

 

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“It’s not just young people. According to Tom Simon, a CDC report author, “We know that overall in the US, we’re seeing increases in suicide rates across all age groups.” As of 2016, suicide levels were at 30-year highs.

A few years back, the trendy explanation was economic volatility — the market crash of 2007-2008 had supposedly created a culture of despair, cured only by suicide. But the economy is booming, and has been growing steadily since 2009. There are those who blame the rise in drugs as well, particularly opioids — but according to a study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, drinking, smoking and drug use may be at the lowest levels “seen in decades,” as the Los Angeles Times reports.

There seems to be a crisis of meaning taking place in America. And that crisis of meaning is heavily linked to a decline in religious observance. As The Atlantic observed in 2014, citing a study in Psychological Science:

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The researchers found that this factor of religiosity mediated the relationship between a country’s wealth and the perceived meaning in its citizen’s lives, meaning that it was the presence of religion that largely accounted for the gap between money and meaning. They analyzed other factors—education, fertility rates, individualism, and social support (having relatives and friends to count on in troubled times)—to see if they could explain the findings, but in the end it came down to religion.

Suicide is complex.  Please understand the data before demagoguing.