How Faith Affects Your Health
Friday, June 26, 2015
Disease squashed in the face of trust? Chronic illness bowing out before faith? It may seem unrealistic, but recent studies are unveiling the connection between religion and recovery.
A May 2001 Reader’s Digest article, “Why Doctors Now Believe Faith Heals,” cited several studies done by such reputable institutions as Duke University and Dartmouth Medical School that link personal belief and personal health. Among the findings:
- Those who attended religious services more than once a week enjoyed a seven-year-longer life expectancy than those who never attended.
- Older adults who considered themselves religious, functioned better and had fewer problems than the nonreligious.
- Patients comforted by their faith were three times more likely to be living six months after open-heart surgery than those who found no emotional support in religion.
- Among the 400 Caucasian men studied in Evans County, Georgia, those who considered religion very important and who attended church regularly had a significant protective effect against high blood pressure
- Adults who attend a house of worship have lower rates of depression and anxiety.
“I fully believe,” says Ted Hamilton, of Florida Hospital, “and there is research that’s beginning to support the notion, that trust actually releases healing hormones into our bodies that contribute to the healing process. Now, the research is not as definitive as we’d like for it to be, but my guess is that five years from now we will view trust and hope as medications to help people recover more quickly.”
The scientific data is growing. Georgetown University Medical School professor Dale Matthews and his colleagues have shown that religious involvement helps people avoid illness, recover from it more quickly, and most remarkably, live longer.
The more spiritually committed you are, the more you benefit. Medical internist Larry Dossey and others have published rather extensively on the benefits of prayer and healing. Undeniably, the medical community has a growing respect for the role that faith and prayer play in our overall well-being.
“I found that people who are faced with disease,” continues Hamilton, “who are also fearful about the ultimate outcome, have more difficulty focusing on recovery. But those who have, beneath all the concerns and worries and challenges of that illness, an underlying trust -- a trust that says things will ultimately work out for the good because God loves and God cares for them -- they’re somehow able to marshal resources that contribute to their healing in ways that others aren’t able to.”