By Aaron Earls
Prayer and church attendance obviously benefit someone’s spiritual health, but research has found it also has lasting benefits for a person’s mental health.
Those who attended religious services with parents or prayed or meditated on their own had healthier lives and improved mental health.
Those who attended church at least once a week as children or teens were 18 percent more likely to report being happy as 20-something adults than those who never attended services.
After reaching adulthood, church-attending kids were 30 percent more likely to do volunteer work and 33 percent less likely to use drugs.
The study also found those who prayed or meditated every day as children or teens were also more satisfied with their lives as adults. They were better able to process emotions and more likely to forgive others.
Praying and meditating also reduced the likelihood someone had sex at an early age or contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
“Many children are raised religious,” said Ying Chen, author of the study, “and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”
Raising children in church can have lasting benefits throughout their lives, but other factors can help ensure the child continues on in their faith as an adult.
In addition to regularly reading the Bible, children who regularly prayed growing up, served in the church, listened primarily to Christian music, and participated in mission trips were more likely to still be spiritually healthy and active as an adult.
“Practicing your faith—in specific ways—really pays off later in life,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.
Those who do all five of those things growing up boost their spiritual health score as a young adult 41 percent, putting them above the 90th percentile, McConnell said.
This highlights the importance of parents instilling their faith in their children, according to Jana Magruder, director of Lifeway Kids.
“The key takeaway from Lifeway’s study is a simple yet profound finding that God’s Word is what changes lives.”
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.