Religion/ Spirituality

Influence of religion and spirituality on health

Researchers at the University of Chicago report, “patients are likely to encounter quite different opinions about the relationship between their religion and spirituality (R/S) and their health, depending on the religious characteristics of their physicians.”

This conclusion is based on survey responses from 2000 practicing US physicians from all specialties.

Among the 63% who returned the survey, most physicians (56%) believed that R/S have “much” or “very much” influence on health, but few (6%) believed it often changed “hard” medical outcomes.

  • It often helps patients to cope (76%)
  • Gives patients a positive state of mind (75%)
  • Provides emotional and practical support (55%)

The role of R/S in the patient/physician encounter appears to depend on the belief (openness?) of the physician. When high R/S and low R/S doctors were compared, the following significant differences appeared.

  • Patients often mention R/S issues (36% vs 11%, respectively)
  • Believe that R/S strongly influences health (82% vs 16%)
  • More likely to interpret the influence of R/S in positive rather than negative ways.

These findings support recommendations that physicians recognize how their own beliefs influence how they provide care.

4/22/07 13:53 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.