Religion and health
Having a religious belief may have both positive and negatives impacts on health and morbidity.
A study in the 1996 (Kark et al.) has found that death rates for 3900 Israelis in religious and non-religious settlements over a period of 16 years were lower in religious communities. The authors cite a number of possible reasons mostly associated with lower stress levels in a religious community.
Church attendance has been found to increase life expectancy (Hummer et al. 1999) with a life expectancy at age 20 of 83 years for frequent attendees and 75 years for non-attendees. The finding, however, does not prove that religion in itself increases life expectancy.
In a study of patients hospitalized for depression, people of faith were found to have less suicidal behavior and beliefs than atheists.
The existence of ‘religious struggle’ in elderly patients was predictive of greater risk of mortality in a study by Pargament et al. 2001 . Results indicate that patients, with a previously sound religious life, experienced a 19% to 28% greater mortality due to the belief that God was supposedly punishing them or abandoning them.
Exline et al. 1999 showed that the difficulty in forgiving God and alienation from God were associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety. Among those who currently believed in God, forgiving God for a specific, unfortunate incident predicted lower levels of anxious and depressed mood.
- Astin, John A. (1997). Stress Reduction through Mindfulness Meditation: Effects on Psychological Symptomatology, Sense of Control, and Spiritual Experiences
- R. Hummer, et al. (1999). `Religious involvement and U.S. adult mortality'. Demography 36(2):273-285.
- Kark JD, Shemi G, Friedlander Y, Martin O, Manor O, Blondheim SH. (1996) Does religious observance promote health? mortality in secular vs religious kibbutzim in Israel.
- Hughes M. Helm, et al. (2000) Does Private Religious Activity Prolong Survival? A Six-Year Follow-up Study of 3,851 Older Adults
- Exline JJ, Yali AM, Lobel M. When God disappoints: difficulty forgiving God and its role in negative emotion. J Health Psychol. 1999;4:365-379.
- Kenneth I. Pargament, PhD; Harold G. Koenig, MD; Nalini Tarakeshwar, MA; June Hahn, PhD. (2001). Religious Struggle as a Predictor of Mortality Among Medically Ill Elderly Patients
- Scott Atran (2003) Genesis of Suicide Terrorism