Going to church at Christmas may have been good for the soul, but scientists have discovered that it may also be good for the body.
Researchers found that attending services lowers blood pressure – and the more often you go the lower it becomes.
Torgeir Sorensen, from the School of Theology and Religious Psychology Centre at Sykehuset Innlandet said: ‘We found that the more often the participants went to church the lower their blood pressure.
Previous studies in the U.S. suggested the link, but as 40 per cent of Americans regularly go to church its health benefits were treated as a coincidence. So the Norwegian researchers, who had just four per cent of churchgoers among their 120,000 participants, were surprised to see they too had lower blood pressure.
‘Previous research from the United States has shown that there is a possible link between people who attend church and blood pressure.
About 40 per cent of the U.S. population goes to church on a weekly basis, while the corresponding figure in Nord-Trondelag County, where the research was carried out, is 4 per cent.
Professor Jostein Holmen from the Faculty of Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and one of the authors of the study, said: ‘The research into lifestyle and health issues mainly comes from the United States, while information from Europe is very limited.
‘Earlier studies have shown a positive correlation between humour and good health, and participation in different cultural activities and good health.
‘It would appear that the data we have been recording about religious beliefs is actually relevant to your health.
‘The fact that churchgoers have lower blood pressure encourages us to continue to study this issue.
The research was published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine.