Do Christmas Miracles Really Exist?

On Christmas Eve, the Daily Mirror and Sun Newspapers in the UK, along with the BBC News Website, reported  the case of a terminally ill 18-month-old girl whose life support machine was switched off, only for her to begin ‘kicking and screaming,’ apparently overflowing with life, 30 minutes later.

Alongside photographs of her parents giving their daughter “a last kiss,” The Sun’s newspaper doctor apparently explains: “Bella’s return to life is little short of a miracle…. All that matters now is that Bella has pulled through.”

Meanwhile in the UK’s Daily Mail Newspaper, on the same day, the case of a nurse, who against medical advice refused chemotherapy for a rare form of bone cancer in order to avoid a termination of her pregnancy, was now reported to have given birth to a healthy son.

Just a few days earlier, Pope Francis officially recognized a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the poor. The Vatican is reported to have explained that the ‘miracle’ involved the healing of a Brazilian man with several brain tumors in 2008.

Recent research appears to provide scientific support for a kind of religious miracle, suggesting that whether you attended church or not this Christmas season, might predict your longevity.

Religious Attendance

The study, entitled, “Religious Affiliation, Religious Service Attendance, and Mortality,” produced results consistent with previous findings that religious attendance, generally speaking, leads to a reduction in mortality and increased longevity.

The investigation from Sungkyunkwan University and Yonsei University, Korea, and the University of Chicago in the USA, used a nationally representative sample of adults aged 18 and older in the U.S. collected annually or biennially from 1972, funded by the National Science Foundation.

One respondent per household is randomly selected and personally interviewed.

While attending religious services was associated with greater longevity, the study also found different mortality rates across religions.

For example, compared to Protestants, being a Catholic or a Jew is associated with lower mortality. For example, the risk of death for Jews is about 0.80 times the risk for Protestants. Except for religious service attendance, the study found no evidence that strength of religious affiliation, praying, belief in life after death or belief in God, has any influence on longevity.

The study, published in the Journal of Religion and Health, also found that more church attendance wasn’t always helpful in terms of living longer; it depended on which particular religious group to which you belonged.

For example, the lowest mortality of Jews and other religious groups is more apparent for those with lower religious attendance.

Promoting Longevity

The authors of this new study, Jibum Kim, Tom Smith and Jeong-han Kang discuss various ways that religion might generally promote longevity, without having to resort to supernatural mechanisms. Religion influences smoking, diet, alcohol and drug use as well as risky sexual behavior.

Religious people are more likely to volunteer and religion may provide purpose and meaning in life, self-control and conscientiousness, all of which are associated with longevity.

But the authors of this study report previous research that found that for older people who lost their spouse, those who believe in the afterlife have fewer anger symptoms, but more intrusive thoughts about their departed spouse than those who do not believe in an afterlife.

Psychologists Clay Routledge, Christina Roylance and Andrew Abeyta in a new study, claim scientists may be investigating religion in the wrong way, explaining the mixed bag of confusing results.

The Opposite of Science

The authors, from North Dakota State University, point out that the supernatural dimension of religion promotes personal meaning because it suggests that the world and our lives cannot be reduced to the material, which is precisely the opposite of what science claims.

This new study, also published in the Journal of Religion and Health, contends supernatural religious beliefs offer a sense that there is something grander and more enduring than mere mortal or physical life.

Do Christmas Miracles Really Exist?

Dr. Raj Persaud & Dr. Peter Bruggen

Dr. Raj Persaud & Dr. Peter Bruggen are regular contributors to Psych Central Professional. Dr. Rajendra Persaud, also known as Raj Persaud, is a leading consultant psychiatrist, broadcaster and author of popular books about psychiatry. He is well known for raising public awareness of psychiatric and mental health issues in the general media. He has published five popular books and has received numerous awards. The Times recently placed him as one of the Top Twenty Mental Health Gurus in the world.

Dr. Peter Bruggen was part of the UK Royal College of Psychiatrist's Podcast Editor Team, with Dr. Persaud. From 1969 to 1994 he was a consultant psychiatrist at Hill End Adolescent Unit, St Albans. He was also a consultant psychiatrist from 1969-90 at the Tavistock Clinic. His work has featured family therapy at the death bed, working with families in the community rather than admitting adolescents to hospital, and staff relationships. Dr. Bruggen has also written three books, including Surviving Adolescence and Helping Families (both with Charles O'Brien), and Who Cares? True Stories of the NHS Reforms, for which he conducted face-to-face interviews with one-hundred people.


APA Reference
Dr. Peter Bruggen, D. (2019). Do Christmas Miracles Really Exist?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 25 Sep 2019
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Sep 2019
Published on All rights reserved.