Religious Service Attendance Linked with Less Divorce
by Caty Long
A recent study published on the Institute for Family Studies’ blog is one among many that has researched the link between religion and health, as well as between religion and divorce rates. Results are consistent: those who regularly attend religious services are not only healthier but less likely to divorce than those who are not regular churchgoers.
Only middle-aged and older women were surveyed in this study, controlling for the possibility of those couples who stop attending services while considering divorce. It found that those who attended religious services regularly are 47 percent less likely to divorce than those who do not. This finding is consistent with surveys of both men and women, as well as younger men and women.
The authors of this study give five particular reasons as to why attending religious services decreases the likelihood of divorce. First, many religions value marriage as something sacred or covenantal. Second, many religions teach against both divorce and infidelity, which is one of the strongest predictors of divorce. Third, religious teachings place love at the center of relationships and emphasize the necessity of living selflessly, putting the spouse’s needs above one’s own. Fourth, churches and similar communities themselves act as support systems, providing opportunities for counseling, retreats, friendships, and other resources. Finally, regular religious participation is linked with other positive effects, such as lowered levels of depression and higher rates of marital happiness.
What conclusions can be made of these findings? While the goal of religious practice is union with God, it is clear that religion takes into account the whole human person, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. The consistent pursuit of God has positive secondary impacts: happier marriages, healthier persons, etc. Additionally, the support offered by a community rooted in a common religion is powerful. A community offers couples and families security, encouragement, and help when it is most needed.
It is clear that, for a myriad of reasons, religious involvement profoundly affects marital success and stability. This is an important takeaway for those of us in the Church, whether we are in positions of leadership or members of a parish community.
About the author
Caty Long is a first year Master of Theological Studies student at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute and currently an intern for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth at the USCCB.