Daily Archives: January 21, 2011

Friends May Be Key to Churchgoers’ Happiness

Regular churchgoers may lead more satisfying lives than stay-at-home folks because they create a network of close friends who provide important support, a new study suggests. Conducted at the University of Wisconsin, the researchers found that 28 percent of people who attend church weekly say they are “extremely satisfied” with life as opposed to only 20 percent who never attend services. But the satisfaction comes from more from participating in a religious congregation along with close friends, rather than a spiritual experience, the study found.

Here are the details from HealthDay News: Regular churchgoers who have no close friends in their congregations are no more likely to be very satisfied with their lives than those who never attend church, according to the research.

Study co-author Chaeyoon Lim said it’s long been recognized that churchgoers report more satisfaction with their lives. But, “scholars have been debating the reason,” he said.

“Do happier people go to church? Or does going to church make people happier?” asked Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

This study, published in American Sociological Review, appears to show that going to church makes people more satisfied with life because of the close friendships established there.

Feeling close to God, prayer, reading scripture and other religious rituals were not associated with a prediction of greater satisfaction with life. Instead, in combination with a strong religious identity, the more friends at church that participants reported, the greater the likelihood they felt strong satisfaction with life.

The study is based on a phone survey of more than 3,000 Americans in 2006, and a follow-up survey with 1,915 respondents in 2007. Most of those surveyed were mainline Protestants, Catholics and Evangelicals, but a small number of Jews, Muslims and other non-traditional Christian churches was also included.

“Even in that short time, we observed that people who were not going to church but then started to go more often reported an improvement in how they felt about life satisfaction,” said Lim.

He said that people have a deep need for belonging to something “greater than themselves.” The experience of sharing rituals and activities with close friends in a congregation makes this “become real, as opposed to something more abstract and remote,” he added.

In addition to church attendance, respondents were asked how many close friends they had in and outside of their congregations, and questions about their health, education, income, work and whether their religious identity was very important to their “sense of self.”

Respondents who said they experienced “God’s presence” were no more likely to report feeling greater satisfaction with their lives than those who did not. Only the number of close friends in their congregations and having a strong religious identity predicted feeling extremely satisfied with life.

One reason may be that “friends who attend religious services together give religious identity a sense of reality,” the authors said.

The study drew a skeptical response from one expert.

“Some of their conclusions are a little shaky,” said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

The study showed that religious identity is just as important as how many friends a person has in their congregation, said Koenig, also a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the university.

The way the data was analyzed ensured that the spiritual factors (prayer, feeling God’s love, etc.) would not be significant because people with a strong religious identity were controlled for, or not included in the analysis, according to Koenig.

“Religious identity is what is driving all these other factors,” said Koenig. Social involvement is important, “but so is faith.”

Lim said the data show that only the number of close friends at church correlates with higher satisfaction with life. The study acknowledged the importance of religious identity, as well as number of friends, suggesting that the two factors reinforce each other.

“Social networks forged in congregations and strong religious identities are the key variables that mediate the positive connection between religion and life satisfaction,” the study concluded.

Lim said he wanted to examine whether social networks in organizations such as Rotary Clubs, the Masons or other civic volunteer groups could have a similar impact, but it might be difficult.

“It’s hard to imagine any other organization that engages as many people as religion, and that has similar shared identity and social activities,” said Lim. “It’s not easy to think of anything that’s equivalent to that.”

Aspirin more effective at preventing cancer deaths than previously thought

In the advertisements for aspirin you see every day on TV and in magazines, they have for years called it a wonder drug. Now, more and more of us doctors are finding that is truly the case. In past blogs I’ve told you, “Low-dose aspirin reduces risk of developing and dying from colon cancer,” and “Single Dose of Aspirin Effective in Relieving Migraine Pain.” And, millions of people take 81 mg of aspirin every day for heart health.

Now, a new study in The Lancet indicates that “aspirin may be much more effective than anyone knew at helping prevent cancer deaths.”

The stunning finding came while researchers were studying 25,000 people taking daily aspirin to prevent heart disease. It turns out aspirin was doing something else, reducing the death rate from cancer as well.

In fact, in the trials where people have taken aspirin four, five, six, seven years on average, the risk of dying of cancer was reduced by about 25%.

So, you may ask, “Should everyone take low-dose aspirin?”

The American Cancer Society said no and that “it would be premature to recommend people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer,” considering that “even low dose aspirin can lead to dangerous internal bleeding. Still, evidence that it might help fight cancer is intriguing for doctors.”

Even so, in the Lancet study, daily aspirin use appeared to lower the risk of death from cancer by 21% in randomized trial participants. It’s important for me to point out that the findings, by themselves, do not prove that aspirin prevents cancer or even cancer death and that the role of aspirin as a chemoprevention agent needs clarification by further studies.

Nevertheless, researchers at Oxford reached the conclusion that a daily low-dose aspirin could significantly lower cancer deaths. They came to that conclusion after examining “the cancer death rates of 25,570 patients who had participated in eight different randomized controlled trials of aspirin that ended up to 20 years earlier,” the New York Times reports.

“Participants who had been assigned to the aspirin arms of the studies were 20 percent less likely after 20 years to have died of solid tumor cancers than those who had been in the comparison group taking dummy pills during the clinical trials, and their risk of gastrointestinal cancer death was 35 percent lower. The risk of lung cancer death was 30 percent lower, the risk of colorectal cancer death was 40 percent lower, and the risk of esophageal cancer death was 60 percent lower.”

Only “one-third of people in the analysis were women — not enough to calculate any estimates for breast cancer,” the AP points out.

And, “there appeared to be no benefit to taking more than 75 milligrams daily — roughly the amount in a European dose of baby aspirin and a bit less than the baby aspirin dose in the US.”

In addition, “aspirin was not found to [significantly] influence the risk of death from pancreatic, prostate, bladder, kidney, brain, or blood cancers,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

Yet, lead investigator Dr. Peter M. “Rothwell noted that most of the subjects stopped taking aspirin at the end of the study – or, alternatively, many in the control group began taking it — potentially confusing the results.” He added that “‘it’s likely that if people had carried on taking aspirin,’ the benefit would have been greater.”

Rothwell also said that “healthy middle-aged men and women may benefit the most from taking aspirin over a long period,” and medical guidelines “may be updated on the back of these results,” Bloomberg News reports.

Meanwhile, an 80-year-old expert at Cardiff University “who has published 300 research papers over 50 years” said, “The man on the street knows betting odds.” Peter Elwood, “who has been taking aspirin since 1974 and wasn’t involved in the study,” maintained that “people should ‘evaluate the risks for themselves.'”

But increasingly, my patients, when evaluating the risks and benefits of daily 81-mg aspirin, are choosing to take it.

More Transparency at Abortion Clinics May Stop Butchers Like This

A Philadelphia-area abortionist is facing eight murder charges today stemming from an investigation that began after the 2009 death of a 41 year-old woman. When authorities initiated their inspection of this “clinic,” they discovered a “house of horrors.”

According to a report from CitizenLink, “A grand jury was convened in May 2010, as the clinic was being investigated for drug-related complaints.” The jury’s findings were released two days ago.

The Grand Jury report says “The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment—such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff—was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.”

Seven of the eight murder charges were filed after authorities discovered that Dr. Kermit Gosnell had performed “live birth abortions.”

According to the prosecutor, Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord.”

The Associated Press reports “State regulators ignored complaints about [Gosnell] and failed to inspect his clinic since 1993 …”

This story highlights not only the tragedy of abortion, but also the disturbing reality that the abortion industry remains one of the least regulated industries in America.

My friend Gary Bower wrote, “Isn’t it interesting that American leftists and progressives are in favor of heavy regulation of oil companies, insurance companies, the auto industry, pharmaceutical companies, etc. but not the industry that destroys over one million unborn children every year?”

He goes on to write, “While the Obama Administration has placed a high priority on healthcare ‘reform’ and ‘transparency,’ it turns a blind eye to the loss of life that goes on in “health clinics” across the country every day.

More transparency and serious reform of abortion facility regulations would save lives — and stop butchers like this.