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Implications for public health of the religiosity-longevity relation

Implicações para a saúde pública da relação religiosidade-longevidade

Marcelo Saad Roberta de Medeiros About the authors

Summary

A growing body of scientific studies has demonstrated a consistently positive association between religious-spiritual (R/S) involvement and beneficial effects on physical health, culminating with increased longevity. This protective effect on the mortality risk is not only statistically significant but also clinically relevant. The mechanisms involved in this association include psycho-neuro-endocrine-immune pathways, greater adherence to healthy behaviors and diverse social factors. Public health strategies could better explore this association. This can be done on an individual (health professionals adopting simple measures) or institutional scale (health institutions joining religious organizations). Some evidence suggests that the benefits of R/S to health and longevity would be more present in populations from more religious regions. In this sense, the Americas (Latin and North) are privileged places for the exploration of this association, compared to regions where there is certain indifference about R/S practices. Exploring this interface can improve the supply and usage of health care, especially for marginalized populations. To achieve this, health professionals, religious leaders and policy makers need to work together.

Keywords:
public health; longevity; psychoneuroimmunology; adaptation; psychological; religion and medicine; spirituality

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