Do you want to know if religion is good for health? Do you want to know how your religion plays a part in your health regimen? I do believe that my religion and my faith play a key part in my overall health. From a religious standpoint, I believe it to be true. But just like you, I wanted to know if there is scientific evidence that proves or disproves my beliefs. I learned that research does suggest religion can have positive effects on physical and mental health.
In fact, studies show those who practice religion have better physical and mental health as well as less stress indicating that religion is good for health.
Religion can have a positive impact on your holistic health – physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. Not only does research support the fact that religion is good for your health, healthcare providers believe it is an important factor to consider in promoting overall better health and wellness to drive down healthcare costs.
In this article, we will explore how religion is good for health by covering,
- The difference between Religion and Spirituality
- Is religion good for health?
- How does religion affect health?
- Can religion affect mental health?
- Religion vs medical treatment
- When does religion become unhealthy?
- Why is religion import in healthcare?
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The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality
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Before we begin digging into how religion is good for health, I want to make a distinction between religion and spirituality. While religion is good for spiritual well-being, religion and spiritual have two different meanings.
- Spiritual is an individual’s personal relationship with a higher power. Spirituality is not tied to any specific religious group or tradition. Typically, those that are spiritual feel a certain connection to living things, have a belief in a higher inner self with a focus on mindfulness.
- Religion is a specific set of organized beliefs and practices associated with specific faiths or communities. Where spirituality believes in a higher power, religion worships a deity or deities. Religious practices include attending worship services, prayer, reading and studying sacred texts and following certain ceremonious and ritual acts.
Is Religion Good for Health?
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There is a lot of evidence that suggest religion is good for health. There are a variety of factors that are believed to explain the reasoning behind why religion is good for your health, and we do know there is a strong correlation between the two.
According to a Gallup Poll, “There is an enduring and very well-substantiated finding of a correlation between individuals’ personal religiosity and various measures of wellbeing, happiness and mental (and, in some instances, physical) health.”
So yes, there are religion health benefits. For example, studies have shown that individuals who regularly attend religious services and engage in faith-based practices may have lower bouts of
- Substance abuse
Furthermore, those who are engaged with religious beliefs are linked to
- Decreased levels of stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
They also have
- Overall better physical health
- Greater life satisfaction
How Does Religion Affect Health?
There appear to be several reasons why religion is good for health. Religious practices and physical health seem to correlate with a belief and faith in a deity that is all-powerful.
Here is how religion can contribute to better health:
- Community – The power of community suggests that religious people gather together to bring hope and support to one another.
- Coping mechanisms – Through prayer, meditation, community gathering, and other religious beliefs and practices, religion can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and better control emotions.
- Healthy behaviors – Many religions will promote a healthy lifestyle, such as no smoking, no alcohol consumption (or at least drinking in moderation), engaging in physical exercise, and no risky sexual activity.
- Meaning and purpose – Religion can provide a person with meaning and purpose for their life, driving that person to live a more healthy and active lifestyle with a more positive outlook on life.
|Deeper Insight: “Questions of causation aside, researchers over the years have explored a wide-ranging number of possibilities for why religious people have higher wellbeing. These explanations run the gamut — from the calming, positive influence of belief in a higher power that comes with religion to the positive impact of being part of a close-knit religious community that fosters friendships with other religious people. Belief in religion can give one a sense of purpose, a belief that life itself has purpose, and belief in an afterlife can mitigate worry about inevitable death. Religious individuals may have more perceived control over their life, and the structure and regularity of religious rituals could have positive effects. Research also shows that expressing gratitude reduces anxiety, and expressing gratitude is a core component of many religions.” Religion and Wellbeing in the U.S.: Update (gallup.com)|
Can Religion Affect Mental Health?
Harold G Koenig, a professor of Psychology at Duke University School of Medicine, conducted a review of the relationship between religion and mental and physical health. Koenig’s review examined hundreds of studies spanning over a century and concluded that there is a significant body of research showing that people who are more religious tend to have better mental health outcomes and adapt more quickly to health problems than those who are less religious or spiritual.
Koenig’s review also highlighted specific psychological outcomes that appear to be positively related to religiosity, such as
- Coping with adversity
- Suicidal tendencies
- Psychotic disorders
Overall, Professor Koenig suggests that there is a substantial amount of evidence supporting the idea that religion can have a positive impact on mental and physical health.
|Statistical Insight: In the U.S., 36% of the actively religious describe themselves as “very happy,” compared with 25% of the inactively religious and 25% of the unaffiliated. Are religious people happier, healthier? | Pew Research Center|
Religion vs Medical Treatment
When discussing if religion is good for health, we can’t overlook religion in conjunction with medical treatment. Religion and medical treatment are not mutually exclusive: faith-based practices and medical treatment play a key role in promoting better health and well-being.
While it has been proven that religion is good for health, religion should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment by a board-certified professional.
Always seek medical treatment when necessary and partner with a healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive medical and treatment plan.
|Check out my article, How to Fast and Detox Your Body for Optimal Health|
When Does Religion Become Unhealthy?
While research shows that religion is good for health, we can’t ignore the harm it can do if not practiced responsibly.
- In some cases, religious beliefs and practices can contribute to negative mental health outcomes, such as guilt, fear, and anxiety. In extreme cases, religious fundamentalism or extremism can lead to violence and terrorism, which can have serious mental health consequences.
- Some religious practices may discourage certain health behaviors, such as contraception or following doctors’ orders, which can have negative health outcomes.
When practiced right and responsibly, religion and healthcare can coexist and work wonders for your overall health.
Why Is Religion Important in Healthcare?
In the article, How Religion Could Lower Health Cost in America, the premise is that businesses and health insurances incentivize employees by rewarding healthy activities such as exercising, quitting smoking, and scheduling regular preventative medical screenings. Since we know that religion is good for health, should we begin to think about adding religion as a method to incentivize employees to lower healthcare costs?
|“Religious Americans exhibit more of the types of behaviors that those interested in the health and well-being of the nation want to encourage. If Americans were to become more religious, it is quite possible they would be happier and healthier, and the cost of healthcare in this country would decline.” How Religion Could Lower Health Costs in America (gallup.com)|
But just like the other incentives (stop smoking, exercise, and schedule regular preventative health screenings), you can’t force someone to join a religion. How would it even work if added to the list of incentives to lower healthcare costs? Well, according to the same article:
“Here’s the controversial premise: Religion could be included in this list of behaviors. The basis for this would be an assumption that highly religious employees will cost a company less over time. Businesses could provide health insurance discounts to employees who demonstrate that they go to church — similar to the programs now in place for other healthy lifestyle practices like going to the gym. The idea would be to sustain religious involvement among those who are already religious or to foster an increase in religious involvement among those who are not religious. This would lead to healthier employees and not incidentally, lower an organization’s overall health costs.”
|Check out my article, Effectively Manage Stress and Anxiety|
Check Out the Video, Harold Koenig on Medicine, Religion, and Health
- Evidence shows that religion is good for health.
- Religion contributes to better health through the power of community, coping mechanisms, and healthy behaviors.
- There is a significant body of research showing that people who are more religious tend to have better mental health and adapt more quickly to health problems than those who are less religious.
- Religion and medical treatment are not mutually exclusive. Both faith-based practices and medical treatment play a key role in promoting better health and well-being.
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