As helpful as prospective studies are, we are fortunate that many past medical investigators already have performed a lot of work showing that Christian principles enhance wellbeing in people suffering illness. We recently compiled this information in a review (2). The vast majority of the research was performed in historically Christian countries.
Our review found that religious faith is important to many patients, particularly those with a serious disease, and that patients depend on it as a positive coping mechanism. Further, many patients react positively to a physician’s spiritual interaction with them, especially with greater severity of their health problems.
Importantly, religious practices, including prayer, generally provide positive results in the patient’s life and treatment, as determined by factors such as a patient’s: knowledge about their disease, adherence to treatment, disease coping, quality of life, and overall health outcomes.
Although not completely understood, we speculate that these benefits might have resulted from religion’s general encouragement to maintain a positive attitude and be respectful of medical personnel, as well as providing a comforting hope for a potential cure and/or their eternal future. Further, perhaps, the structure of the religious practice provided the patient with the discipline to learn about their disease and adhere to treatment. In addition, our review noted that the more a patient practiced the positive aspects of their religion, the greater the benefits on how they coped with their disease and treatment.
Our review suggested that patients commonly practice religion and interact with God about their disease state. This spiritual interaction may benefit a patient by providing comfort, increasing knowledge about their disease, greater treatment adherence, and quality of life.
Many research avenues remain open regarding religion and disease, including better controlled studies relating the impact of religion on a patient’s quality of life and disease.
To ponder…Would you expect the same benefits across all religions? Between those who take their Christian faith seriously versus those who participate in Christianity on a cultural basis only?
Thank you again for visiting. Please ask questions or comment. I look forward to seeing you next week.
- Stewart WC, Sharpe ED, Kristoffersen CJ, Nelson LA, Stewart JA. Association of strength of religious adherence to attitudes regarding glaucoma or ocular hypertension. Ophthalmic Res 2011:45:53-6.
- Stewart WC, Adams MP, Stewart JA, Nelson LA. Review of clinical medicine and religious practice. J Relig Health 2013;52:91-106.