Going to church could prolong the lives of black men

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By By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter, health day reporter

(Health Day)

FRIDAY, Sept. 30, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Places of worship can provide respite for Black men, which not only improves their lives but can also extend them, according to new research.

“Black men have been oppressed, commodified, surveilled, and criminalized like no other group in U.S. history, and they often experience disproportionately high levels of social and psychological stress from structural racism, institutional discrimination, and treatment unfair from infancy to late adulthood,” lead researcher Marino Bruce and colleagues said in the study.

In places like a church, mosque, synagogue or other center of worship, black men find refuge where they can feel safe and free from judgment or suspicion, the study found.

“Churches and similar institutions represent a safe space,” Bruce said in a University of Houston press release. “They receive an affirmation and the messages delivered are aimed specifically at them.” Bruce is associate dean for research at the university’s Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine.

The new study suggests that regular attendance at religious services may reduce the death rate for black men in their 50s and older.

The researchers used data from the US National Health and National Examination Survey (NHANES), randomly sampling data from black men for over 17 years. The team tracked health status and generated mortality rates.

Men who attended services at least once a week had better health profiles than those who attended less frequently or did not attend, according to the study.

On the one hand, there was a higher percentage of non-drinkers and non-smokers in the sample of regular participants.

Black churches, in particular, provide members with an environment conducive to social and spiritual connection, the researchers found.

“Black places of worship have traditionally been centers of advocacy,” Bruce said. “Churches and church leaders used to be catalysts for social change that transformed the lives of African Americans and other marginalized populations.”

He noted that churches have been at the center of efforts to improve the daily lives of community residents by providing information related to employment, health, recreation and general well-being. They launched several historically black colleges and universities. They served as community health centers.

“Black houses of worship have offered and continue to offer resources that touch individuals and their loved ones at every stage of life,” Bruce said.

The additional resources offered by African American churches are more relevant as their congregants age, the study authors noted.

They also noted the powers of prayer and positivity when it comes to health.

Still, while these places of worship can be therapeutic, they’re not a silver bullet, Bruce said.

“The tradition of worship includes time and space where individuals can lay down their burdens,” he said. “When people participate in practices such as standing before an altar and participating in collective prayer, they can realize that they are not alone and that their problems are not insurmountable. These long-standing practices can help people to overcome whatever ails them. They are not a panacea, but these long-held traditions provide the positive energy needed to meet challenges and perhaps offer a new outlook on life.”

The results of the study were recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.

SOURCE: University of Houston, press release, September 27, 2022

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