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I Want to Believe: Why Religion Increases Health

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If you suffer from a chronic illness it might be wise to say a little prayer from time to time, scientists from the University of Missouri report in a new study.

Using a survey, they found that believers or people who are spiritually oriented that suffer from a chronic disease, identify themselves as physically and mentally healthier in comparison to non-believers and atheists. According to main researcher Stephanie Reid-Arndt “the findings support the idea that religion works as a buffer against the negative consequences of chronic health problems.”

The scientists also wondered whether women and men experience similar religious support. Although it was always assumed that women are more spiritual than men, just as many chronically ill men as women resorted to faith. Only women appeared to benefit from the experience of daily spiritual rituals and the element of forgiveness which is part of most religions, while the men more often turned to congregations or spiritual figures for support.

For centuries faith has had a difficult relationship with science. However, scientists can not deny that some aspects of religion (at least for those who believe) can provide psychological support.

Reid-Arndt, S.A., Smith, M., Yoon, D.P., & Johnstone, B. (2011). Gender Differences in Spiritual Experiences, Religious Practices, and Congregational Support for Individuals with Significant Health Conditions Journal of Religion, Disability, and Health.

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