Religious people may live on average four years longer compared to their atheist peers, a study of obituaries in the US has found.
The four-year boost - found in an analysis of more than 1,000 obits from around the US - was calculated after taking into account the sex and marital status of those who died, two factors that have strong effects on lifespan.
"Religious affiliation had nearly as strong an effect on longevity as gender does, which is a matter of years of life," said Laura Wallace, a doctoral student at The Ohio State University in the US.
The study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, found that part of the reason for the boost in longevity came from the fact that many religiously affiliated people also volunteered and belonged to social organisations, which previous research has linked to living longer.
"The study provides persuasive evidence that there is a relationship between religious participation and how long a person lives, said Baldwin Way, an associate professor at Ohio State. PTI