Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Faith And Health: Divine Intervention Or Good Behavior?

Date:
October 30, 1998
Source:
Center For The Advancement Of Health
Summary:
Religion and faith appear to exert positive effects on people's health, but that doesn't necessarily mean divine intervention is at work, scientists say. Instead, they see the handiwork of behaviors that previous research has shown promote health and fight disease: increased social support, coping skills and a positive self-image.

Religion and faith appear to exert positive effects on people's health, but that doesn't necessarily mean divine intervention is at work, scientists say. Instead, they see the handiwork of behaviors that previous research has shown promote health and fight disease: increased social support, coping skills and a positive self-image.

Not too long ago, "the suggestion that religion might influence mental or physical health outcomes was greeted with skepticism and hostility by medical researchers, and it evoked images of faith healers and charlatans among the general public," according to Christopher G. Ellison, PhD, of the University of Texas, Austin, and Jeffrey S. Levin, PhD, of the National Institute of Healthcare Research, Rockville, MD.

But recent reviews of the research literature provide a convincing case that "on average, high levels of religious involvement are moderately associated with better health status," Ellison and Levin write in a special December issue of Health Education & Behavior devoted to "Public Health and Health Education in Faith Communities."

Ellison and Levin explore a range of explanations for the positive health effects of religious practices and spiritual beliefs, many of which have been scientifically demonstrated to promote health and reduce disease:

* Healthy Behavior. Religious involvement may discourage behavior that increases health risks, such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, or it may encourage other positive lifestyle choices.

* Social Support. People who regularly attend religious services appear to have larger and denser social networks to provide emotional support and other forms of assistance than less frequent attendees.

* Self Esteem. Religious involvement may promote feelings of self-worth and confidence in the ability to control one's own affairs and destiny.

* Coping Skills. Prayer, meditation and other religious activities may help people deal with stressful events and conditions.

* Positive Emotions. Religious activities may also lead to positive emotions, which have been shown to influence immune functions and other physiological factors that influence health.

* Healthy Beliefs. Faith may promote a positive outlook that offers both emotional and tangible means of promoting individuals' health and well-being.

Ellison and Levin say these functions of religion are rarely measured directly. Most studies, they say, focus on the frequency of church attendance and prayer, "measures of religious behavior that may tap poorly or not at all the mechanisms by which religion really influences mental and physical health."

Evidence that participating in a religion can promote healthy behavior is offered in a related study in the same issue of the Journal. Sarah A. Fox, EdD, of the University of California at Los Angeles, found that regular churchgoers are more likely to have a mammogram than are women in the community at large.

Nearly three-quarters of the 1,517 church members she studied had a mammogram during the previous 24 months, compared with 60 percent of 510 women in the community. Nearly all (96 percent) of the church members reported attending church at least monthly, compared with about half (55 percent) of the women in the community.

"This finding suggests that frequent church attendance contributes to better mammography screening status," Fox and colleagues say.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Center For The Advancement Of Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Center For The Advancement Of Health. "Faith And Health: Divine Intervention Or Good Behavior?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981030081243.htm>.
Center For The Advancement Of Health. (1998, October 30). Faith And Health: Divine Intervention Or Good Behavior?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981030081243.htm
Center For The Advancement Of Health. "Faith And Health: Divine Intervention Or Good Behavior?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981030081243.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Aimed at reducing sexual assaults on college campuses, California has adopted a new law changing the standard of consent for sexual activity. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Researchers looked at 1,500 blood samples and determined people who developed pancreatic cancer had more branched chain amino acids. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins