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2. Does Faith Benefit Your Health?

Analyzing the Data

Studies have shown faith/prayer benefits related to many areas such as cancer, hypertension, general health, heart disease, and other physical ailments as well as psychological, psychiatric and substance abuse prob- lems. Examples include:

A systematic review of longevity research revealed that in nearly every published study including a religious variable, the more religious individuals lived longer than the non-religious. 9

Patients in the San Francisco General Hospital coronary care unit who were prayed for had fewer cases of congestive heart failure, less pneumonia, less need for antibiotics and fewer cardiac ar- rests than those who were not prayed for. 10

A 1995 Dartmouth Medical School Study of elective heart surgery patients found the very religious were three times more likely to recover than those who were not. 11

  • Data on the relation of health and faith shows that the most important factor is religious practice

and beliefnot denomination. Patients who dont just talk the talk but walk the walk demonstrate the most benefits.

Polls reveal patients interest in their health care providers addressing faith and health:

9 9 p e r c e n t o f p h y s i c i a n s s a y r e l i g i o u s b e l i e f s c a n m a k e a p o s i t i v e c o n t r i b u t i o n t o t h e h e a l i n g process. 1 2

  • 63 percent of patients want doctors to discuss matters of faith.13

O n l y t e n p e r c e n t o f p a t i e n t s s u r v e y e d s a y t h e i r d o c t o r s t a l k e d t o t h e m a b o u t t h e i r f a i t h a s a f a c t o r i n h e a l i n g . 1 4

  • Roughly half of all patients want their doctors to pray with them.15

  • 79 percent believe spiritual faith can help people recover from illness, injury or disease.16

91 percent of doctors surveyed say they have patients who also seek help from a spiritual leader such as a minister in dealing with their health problems. 17

Studies show that church attendance results in a drop in suicide risk18, alcohol abuse19 and illicit drug use.20 Frequent attendees to church were also more likely to stop smoking, start exercising, increase social contacts and stay married. 21

Prayer, religion, spirituality, religious belief, pastor/chaplain visits were shown to help heart bypass surgery patients, gynecologic cancer patients, and breast cancer patients. Ninety-seven percent of bypass surgery patients reported that prayer was helpful in coping. Ninety-six percent used prayer to deal with stress, and 70 percent found prayer extremely helpful in their coping. 22

Attending religious services improved outcomes for the following:

  • Psychotherapy for depression23

  • Drug abuse treatment24

  • Reducing criminal recidivism25

  • Rheumatoid arthritis26

  • ICU care27

  • Lower blood pressure28

  • Longer life29

  • Greater satisfaction with life30

Of 9,000 residents living in 86 small towns in Iowa, results concluded that participating in church helps people feel more attached to their community. Participating in church-related groups has the greatest impact on (increasing) non church-related activities including increasing ones network of friends. Researchers noted...Surprisingly, most recent studies on community attachment have neglected the study of religion.31

Reviewing findings from three national surveys totaling more than 5,600 older Americans, attending religious services was linked with improved physical health or personal well-being. Twelve other studies published since 1980 found persons in organized religious activity had higher levels of life satisfaction. 32


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