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Faith May Help Stroke Patients Cope

Study: Less Emotional Distress in Those With Strong Religious Beliefs
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 15, 2007 -- Strong religious beliefs can protect stroke patients from emotional distress, perhaps aiding recovery, according to a new Italian study.

Emotional distress, particularly depression, has been shown in other research to negatively affect recovery during a stroke patient's hospitalization or after discharge.

In this study, researchers from Rome interviewed 132 survivors of stroke -- median age: 72.

They asked about the survivors' religious beliefs and spirituality. They also evaluated them for anxiety and depression.

Their finding: The higher the anxiety and depression scores, the lower the religious and spirituality beliefs.

The association held even after the researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect emotional distress, such as the degree of physical functioning after the stroke, marital status, and living conditions.

The study was done by Salvatore Giaquinto, MD, of the San Raffaele Pisana Rehabilitation Center in Rome, and fellow researchers.

Behind the Link

Exactly why strong faith is linked to less distress is not known.

The researchers speculate that people who are active in religious activities may have more social support, and that can positively influence the outcomes in stroke as well as other illnesses.

While most of the patients surveyed were Roman Catholic, the researchers note that religious coping mechanisms have been identified in non-Catholic people as well.

The researchers suggest that the degree of faith and religious beliefs be considered in post-stroke rehab, and that patients be provided spiritual assistance if desired.

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