I don’t know about you, but I am feeling exhausted from the recent onslaught of human-caused tragedy. On Friday I learned that flags in the United States had been half-mast for 16 of the last 40 days, starting with the Orlando shooting, and more specifically 12 of the last 14 days between the attack in Nice, France and the shootings of the police officers in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Plus, there have also been countless other tragic events that did not lower the flag. When the news is reporting on events caused by fear (like the events I just mentioned), it can feel as though a part of that fear is transferred through the newspaper and into our lives. Yet, it is one thing to read the news, and another to carry it fearfully throughout the day, allowing it to affect our mental state and the way we interact with other people. The last thing our world needs right now is a ripple effect of fear.
This summer I am thrilled to be working as a student researcher at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, one of the hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Last week, my supervisor told me about a recently published study from the Harvard School of Public Health, which found that over the course of a 16-year period, participants who regularly attended religious services had a 33 percent lower mortality rate than those who never attended religious services.[i][ii] In other words, while all the participants would have died eventually if the study had continued, in general those who regularly attended religious services lived significantly longer. What?!