Doc’s Spiritual Belief May Affect Care
Spiritual or Religious Doctors More Likely to Believe Religion Affects Personal Health
April 9, 2007 -- Most U.S. doctors agree that religion and spirituality have
a significant effect on a person’s health, according to a new survey on
doctor’s spiritual beliefs.
But doctors who themselves are religious or spiritual are more likely to see
the impact of religion or spirituality on personal health as positive and
believe it strongly influences health.
Researchers say the findings support recommendations that doctors recognize
how their own beliefs influence how they provide care.
"Physicians' notions about the relationship between religion and
spirituality and patients' health are strongly associated with physicians' own
religious characteristics," write researcher Farr Culin, MD, of the
University of Chicago, and colleagues in the Archives of Internal
"Consensus seems to begin and end with the idea that many [if not most]
patients draw on prayer and other religious resources to navigate and overcome
the spiritual challenges that arise in their experiences of illness," write
the researchers. "Controversy remains regarding whether, to what extent and
in what ways religion and spirituality helps or harms patients'
Doctors’ Spiritual Beliefs Affect Care
In the study, researchers mailed surveys to a random sample of 2,000 U.S.
doctors from all specialties. Participants were asked to estimate how often
patients raised religious or spiritual issues, how much religion and
spirituality affect health, and how the influence of religion and spirituality
Among the more than 1,100 doctors who returned the survey, the results
showed that 56% believed religion and spirituality had much or very much
influence on health.
But only 6% believed religion or spirituality had changed “hard” medical
Instead, most doctors believed that religion and spirituality:
- Often helps patients cope with illness (76%)
- Gives patients a positive state of mind (74%)
- Provides emotional and practical support through the religious community
Compared with those who rated themselves as not very religious, those who
were more religious were more likely to:
- Report that patients often mention religious or spiritual issues
- Believe religion and spirituality strongly influences health
- Interpret the influence of religion and spirituality in positive rather
than negative ways