Spiritual practices in childhood may boost health, cut depression later

New York: Are you keen to boost your children’s health as well as keep them away from depressive symptoms, smoking, drugs in adulthood? If so, start training them to indulge in spiritual practices right from childhood, researchers suggest.

A study showed that spiritual practices acted as a protective factor for a range of health and well-being outcomes in early adulthood.

Children and adolescents who attended religious services at least weekly were nearly 20 per cent more likely to report higher happiness as young adults (ages 23-30) than those who never attended services.

They were also 29 per cent more likely to volunteer in their communities and 33 per cent less likely to use illicit drugs.

Those who prayed or meditated at least daily while growing up were 16 per cent more likely to report higher happiness as young adults, 30 per cent less likely to have started having sex at a young age, and 40 per cent less likely to have a sexually transmitted infection compared to those who never prayed or meditated.

“These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices,” said lead author Ying Chen from Harvard University.

“Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviour, mental health and overall happiness and well-being,”Chen added.

The results were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“While decisions about religion are not shaped principally by health, for adolescents who already hold religious beliefs, encouraging service attendance and private practices may be meaningful avenues to protect against some of the dangers of adolescence, including depression, substance abuse and risk taking,” said Tyler VanderWeele, from the varsity.

“In addition, these practices may positively contribute to happiness, volunteering, a greater sense of mission and purpose and to forgiveness.”

For the study the team included more than 5,000 youth who were followed for between 8-14 years.