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Does Religion Make You Healthier?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, Jul 28, 2021.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

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    There are plenty of external factors that can affect your health. What you eat, how often you exercise, and your genetics all have influence on your well-being.

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    You can add religion to the list, too.

    Studies have long shown a correlation between health and religion. When it comes to mental health, people who hold strong religious beliefs are shown to have better overall mental health and higher levels of happiness than those who are not religious. Religion can also influence your physical health, studies have shown, including lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, and increasing stress-relieving activity in your frontal lobe.

    Here are the ways religion affects mental and physical health at all life stages, according to the research.

    Religion and Mental Health

    Many of the studies on religion and health mostly detail the mental-health benefits. The American Journal of Epidemiology surveyed a group of youths and found that those who had a more religious upbringing were 18% more likely to report a higher sense of happiness as young adults than those who didn’t. Those who prayed or meditated daily as a child were also reported being 16% happier as a young adult than those who didn’t pray daily, and were 29% more likely to volunteer for community service.

    Childhood religious upbringing was also shown to have a bearing on brain activity. In 2019, Next Avenue, a PBS-supported news resource for older Americans, reported on the neurological effects of prayer in the brain. While undergoing a brain scan, a rabbi and a researcher sang a Jewish prayer. The rabbi’s scan showed activation in areas of the brain that indicate focus and a sense of letting go. The researcher’s scan did not. Similar scans of Buddhists and nuns during meditation and prayer, respectively, found increased activity in their frontal lobes as well.

    Next Avenue also reported that prayer/meditation can increase dopamine levels, which help decrease stress levels and lower heart rate and blood pressure.

    Religious practice through adulthood is also shown to have positive mental-health benefits. The American Journal of Epidemiology survey reported that those who frequently attend religious services had a higher sense of life satisfaction and self-esteem levels than those who did not regularly attend services. This reported happiness can be attributed to multiple reasons, such as healthier lifestyle choices, the sense of social connectedness from being part of a religious community, and the fact that religion often focuses on establishing happiness and purpose.

    Religion and Physical Health

    In addition, religion can also affect physical health. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, religious individuals have far fewer physical health issues than those who are not religious. This may be attributable to the fact that religious individuals are happier because of their beliefs, which has a huge influence on physical health. For example, an Iranian Journal of Public Health meta-analysis found that happiness may help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension, improve diet, and enable better sleep.

    Religion also appears to lead to a lifestyle with lower risk of STDs, drug use, and early pregnancy, to name a few, according to the American Journal of Epidemiology study. The same study found that people who had a more religious childhood were 33% less likely to use drugs, 30% less likely to have sex at a young age, and 40% less likely to have a sexually transmitted disease than those who did not have a religious upbringing. The Mayo Clinic also found that more religious individuals had a stronger aversion to smoking and alcohol consumption, lowering or eliminating related health risks.

    A study published in Preventive Medicine pointed out that those who attend church frequently are more likely to regularly exercise than those who attend church less frequently. The Mayo Clinic also found that religious people tend to engage in an overall healthier lifestyle, including maintaining a healthier diet, than those who weren’t religious.

    Religion and Healthcare

    According to research, religion can have a powerful influence on the well-being of patients and healthcare workers. A study in The Journal of Religion and Health found that nurses who are more religious reported having better overall mental health and a higher sense of personal accomplishment, as well as lower levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. This can ensure patients are receiving the best care possible from alert and attentive nurses. Nurses battling burnout and poor mental health could affect the turnaround rate of patients being seen and treated.

    Religion is also viewed as having some impact on patients’ treatment and recovery in a healthcare setting. A BMC Psychiatry study found that patients and healthcare workers believed spirituality was important to patients’ recovery and well-being. In particular, the researchers determined that patients wanted a sense of calmness in their recovery that religion might provide. Physicians viewed religion as helping patients cope with the symptoms of their diagnosis and aid in recovery. This was backed by a Mayo Clinic study which found that among 157 hospital patients who reported moderate to high levels of pain, prayer was one of the best means of providing pain relief, second only to pain medication.

    Final thought

    Religion can be a polarizing topic. Regardless of your feelings on the subject, the research indicates that religion and spirituality have profound implications for patients and healthcare providers. Those implications extend to life beyond the clinic, enabling people to live healthier, happier lives.

    TL;DR
    • Studies have shown religion affects mental health, with religious individuals reportedly happier than non-religious individuals.
    • Religious people were also shown to have better physical health than non-religious individuals, mostly because of lifestyle choices.
    • Religious healthcare workers had lower rates of burnout and had better mental health.
    • Religion can affect patients’ recovery and help to relieve meddlesome symptoms.

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