It's natural for people to want more. More prosperity, more status and prestige, more opportunities. We also want to live longer and healthier lives. That's why health and wellness is one of the fastest growing industries worldwide, grossing an estimated $3.7 million in 2015 alone. Some people will pay any amount of money in the hope that they might extend their lives.
One of the best ways to live longer, however, doesn't cost a thing. Study after study has shown that practicing one's faith, particularly in a community setting, can not only give you a sense of well-being – it can actually add years to your life.
The Blue Zones
Longevity expert Dan Buettner traveled the world to visit places in the world where a greater number of people than average live to be 100. He then compiled his research in a book called The Blue Zones.
The results are fascinating. For instance, did you know that people who eat nuts every day live longer? Buettner's observation has since been supported by a number of studies, including one conducted by Harvard researchers claiming people who eat nuts may live as much as two years longer than those who don't.
While diet and exercise certainly play a role in longevity, Buettner also found that people who belonged to faith-based communities lived significantly longer. Almost all of the centenarians he interviewed – 98 percent – regarded spirituality as an important part of their lives. They also attended some form of faith-based service regularly, which, his research shows, can add as much as 14 years to a person's lifespan.
The social factor
So what makes faith correlate so strongly with longevity?
Nearly all of the research points to the powerful combination of two things: spiritual values and social communion. When people live according to religious values like charity, humility, gratitude, and compassion, they are inherently less stressed. When they come together regularly to reinforce their values, they receive strength and companionship – not to mention a community that can pull together to help them recover from disease and injuries.
Although solitary prayer has many benefits, including improved health, a 2018 Time Magazine article reports there are few scientific links between the act of prayer and longer life.
If you really want to live longer, it's important to practice your faith in the company of others and make it a regular habit. Whether you are active in a congregation or use faith resources to facilitate your own community, the act of gathering together in worship is key to longer life.