If one could conceive of a single elixir to improve the physical and mental health of millions of Americans — at no personal cost — what value would our society place on it?

Going a step further, if research quite conclusively showed that when consumed just once a week, this concoction would reduce mortality by 20% to 30% over a 15-year period, how urgently would we want to make it publicly available?

The good news is that this miracle drug — religion, and more specifically regular church attendance — is already in reach of most Americans. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s just a short drive away.

Indeed, health and religion are very much connected. Professor VanderWeele’s new research with colleagues at Harvard University — building on more than 20 years of prior work in this area — suggests that attending religious services brings about better physical and mental health. Adults who do so at least once a week versus not at all have been shown to have a significantly lower risk of dying over the next decade and a half. The results have been replicated in enough studies and populations to be considered quite reliable.