Dan Buettner has conducted a groundbreaking study on longevity which was featured as a National Geographic cover story.

Buettner’s original article has grown into a book, The Blue Zones Solution, in which he outlines his findings on the characteristics of “the world’s healthiest people.”

In chapter 12 “Blue Zones Living: A Design For Easy Health” Buettner announces a startling finding from his study. You will probably not encounter Buettner’s guideline #4 for living a longer healthier life in most mainstream media. But, according to Buettner’s research the fourth guideline that seems to lead to a longer healthier life is:

the-blues-zones-solution#4 Join a church.

Just about every study done on the connection between religion and longevity shows that the two go hand in hand.

While we’re not sure if churchgoing makes you live longer or living longer makes you want to go to church, research shows that people who belong to a faith-based community and attend at least four times per month live four to fourteen years longer than people who don’t (and it doesn’t seem to matter if they’re Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish);

Churchgoers are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, are satisfied with less money. experience less stress, and have built-in social networks. And research shows you’ll amplify the longevity benefits of belonging to a faith community if you become active: join the choir, volunteer as a greeter, or commit to read for the congregation.

If you don’t belong, or have drifted away from the faith community of your birth, try to find a new one that matches your current values and worldview. Start by asking friends or people you admire to make some suggestions. If you are not sure, attend service in a different location once a week for the next eight weeks.

(Buettner, Dan. The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2015, 224, 225)

Caution here: I imagine it matters what kind of church you join.

There is a rigid dogmatic strain of organized religion that majors in guilt, manipulation, suppression of legitimate human emotion, and a determination to pretend to a virtue and morality that is often lacking in reality. I do not believe such a degenerate expression of institutionalized religion will increase anyone’s health or well-being, let alone the longevity of their pilgrimage here on this earth.

However, if you are fortunate enough to locate a church that majors in gentleness, openness, kindness, love, expansive welcome, respect for all people, and service for the well-being and greater good of the wider community, you just may have found one of the key ingredients to a long and healthy life.

And, the real news, again which you may not hear in the mainstream media, is that such religious communities do actually exist. Not all faith-based communities march to the tune played by Donald Trump. Scattered all over this land, are churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques that seek to guide people to the consciousness that there is more to being human than what we can acquire, achieve, or accomplish in this material, time-bound, physical realm.

If you look you may find a community of faith dedicated to helping hearts open to the deepest and richest values and qualities that are characteristic of human beings. Active participation in such a community may well enhance the health, well-being, and longevity of life.