The importance of spirituality to health

The importance of spirituality to health

Spiritual aspects of medical care are not typically a part of the medical school curriculum. But physicians would be well advised to learn more abut the relationship between religion and health for purely medical reasons. Levin and associates have gathered over two hundred studies that touch on this relationship. In on such study, for example, investigators at Dartmouth Medical School found that one of the best predictors of survival for patients after heart surgery was the extend to which they drew comfort and strength from religious faith. Those who did not find solace in this way died three times more often than those who did. And patients recovering from hip fractures who considered God a source of strength had less depression and could walk farther on discharge than those who did not. Attending religious services raises the levels of some immune measures and alters the levels of others, even when other factors could affect them are accounted for. Taken together, these results suggest that while the mechanism remains unknown, attending religious services results in healthier immune systems. This points toward an important role for religious belief in relation to physical health. Since many studies have now found that religious belief and practice have a positive effect on physical and mental health, medical educators have begun to recognize the need to translate these important findings into practice, introducing more compassionate cargegiving into the medical school curriculum.

Marilyn Schlitz, PhD; and Nola Lewis, M.S

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