The following is excerpted from the Deseret News. To read the full article, CLICK HERE.

A slew of sociologists, demographers, academics, psychologists and others are trying to understand the factors that help people to thrive. And, of course, what does the opposite.

Using controlled trials, surveys, longitudinal studies and more, they peek into life in America and look at what’s happening in homes, classrooms and workplaces. Part of the work of a journalist is to pick through all that research to see what people need to know to build joyful, successful lives.

As a reporter, I sometimes find it a little overwhelming to try to do justice to the growing body of knowledge about what we can learn from each other or how we can help each other. This year, I covered a lot of findings — and left some really important things out, too, because there wasn’t time or I was looking at something else.

Here are five of the reports that deserved attention that I didn’t get around to covering:

Being part of a religious community offers great benefits, according to research from Harvard University’s Human Flourishing program based on several studies they’ve done.

In a recent year-end summary published in Psychology Today, Tyler J. VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, noted the positive impact of participating in a faith community, “including preventing depression and suicide, extending longevity, improving marital outcomes, facilitating happiness, meaning, forgiveness and hope.”

He wrote that “the size of the effects of religious community participation tend to exceed those of other forms of social participation. With regard to effects on mortality, suicide and cardiovascular disease, the effects of religious service participation are larger than for any other social participation indicator examined, including marriage, time spent with friends, with family, hours spent in other community groups or even their composite.”

But he warns that the research doesn’t mean going to services should be a “universal prescription.” Rather, the data provides an “invitation back into communal religious life for those who might already positively self-identify with a religious tradition.” Those who don’t should make sure they have other forms of community life, he said.

Women who are kind to themselves are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

To read the full article, CLICK HERE.