Evidence of Importance

Studies have documented diverse and important linkages between religious and spiritual (R/S) factors and health. Scientific research on R/S factors and health amounts to more than 1200 studies in the 20th century, and more than 2100 additional studies published between 2000 and 2009, as documented in the Handbook of Religion and Health (Oxford University Press, 2012). Many positive linkages have been found, and some negative linkages have also been reported. Examples of findings include:

Positive Associations

  • A study of a US nationally representative sample of more than 20,000 US adults reported that after adjusting for health behaviors, social ties, prior health, socio-economic status, and demographics, attendance at worship services was almost as protective against all-cause mortality (33% reduction, HR=.67) as was refraining from heavy smoking (39% reduction, HR=.61). Attendance at worship services was associated with a longevity gaps of 7-years in the overall US population, and almost 14 years among African Americans. A recent meta-analysis of 69 studies also showed significant reductions of mortality in population samples.
  • Meta-analyses indicate that lower levels of depression are associated with meditative therapies (in randomized trials), and with religiousness.
  • A meta-analysis of R/S accommodative therapies found that they outperformed corresponding non-R/S-accommodative therapies (d=.41 vs d=.26).
  • A coping meta-analysis reported that positive forms of religious coping were correlated with better adjustment.
  • A systematic review in the American Journal of Public Health found 28 intervention studies in faith-based organizations that reported favorable effects including reduced cholesterol, lowered blood pressure and weight, and increased fruit/vegetable intake.

Negative Associations

Many Public Health faculty and students are unaware of these and other findings from scientific research on R/S factors and health.

Technical Notes
Visit this page for explanation of the meaning of some technical terms (e.g., HR, d).

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