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Be happy – join a church

New research by scientists from the London School of Economics has revealed that going to a church, synagogue or mosque brings better mental health than charity work, sport or education …

New research by scientists from the London School of Economics has revealed that going to a church, synagogue or mosque brings better mental health than charity work, sport or education …

The study, of around 10,000 people aged over 50, aimed to find the kind of social activities that made people less likely to be depressed.

Over a four-year period, researchers questioned participants from across Europe on their involvement in voluntary work, education, sports and social clubs, and political or religious organisations. They also measured symptoms of depression: whether people were sleeping, had lost their appetite or had suicidal thoughts.

Volunteering and sporting involvement seemed to make no difference over the four year period.

One of those involved in the study was Dr Mauricio Avendano, who commented: "One of those most puzzling findings is that although healthier people are more likely to volunteer, we found no evidence that volunteering actually leads to better mental health.

"It may be that any benefits are outweighed by other negative impacts of volunteering, such as stress."

Religious involvement seemed to be the only activity which had a positive impact on an individual's mental health over time.

Dr Avendano's view was that the structure, support and sense of community provided by church and religious groups had more impact than spiritual effects:

"The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life. It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se, or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated."

The study, carried out in collaboration with Erasmus University Medical Centre (Erasmus MC) in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Campers are happy too

Another survey carried out by The Caravan Club among its members concluded caravanners, motorhomers and campers are more likely to feel happy and satisfied with life than the rest of the British public.

Some 42 per cent of members rated their feeling of happiness as more than nine out of 10, while the same question posed by the Office of National Statistics to the British public brought a response of 33 per cent.

And Caravan Club members asked about satisfaction with life saw 41 per cent give a score of nine out of 10, compared to just 27 per cent among the UK population.

Photo top: Shutterstock/altafulla

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