Posted on Mon, 21 Nov 11
Ironically, many people do not believe that a sense of spiritual or religious practice has anything to do with your health. But a new review of the evidence suggests that not only does spirituality play a role, the effects may be comparable to a healthy diet or as strong as medication.
Investigators contrasted data examining the effects of spirituality including religion, and/or church attendance against 25 well-known medical interventions (1).
One of the studies reviewed found that church attendance resulted in a 25% reduction in premature death and another found a similarly high 18% reduction for spiritual and religious practice. For disease risk reduction this placed spirituality ahead of colorectal cancer screening and equivalent to breast cancer screening in women over 50. For heart disease risk reduction the effects of spirituality were similar to eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and stronger than statin drug therapy.
It is not certain how spiritual or religious practice may protect against disease, but as a recent review pointed out; “more religiosity/spirituality is thought to be related to healthier behaviour, including less smoking, exercising, drinking moderately, lower dietary fat intake, and better sleep quality” which may offer some explanation (2). Also spirituality may be of benefit by “buffering psychological distress or by increasing social support.”
1. Lucchetti G, Lucchetti AL, Koenig HG. Impact of spirituality/religiosity on mortality: comparison with other health interventions. Explore (NY). 2011 Jul-Aug;7(4):234-8.
2. Chida Y, Steptoe A, Powell LH. Religiosity/spirituality and mortality. A systematic quantitative review. Psychother Psychosom. 2009;78(2):81-90.