Irreligion and recovery from illnesses

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The prestigious Mayo Clinic found that that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better physical health, mental health, health-related quality of life and other health outcomes.[1]

The prestigious Mayo Clinic reported on December 11, 2001:

In an article also published in this issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Mayo Clinic researchers reviewed published studies, meta-analyses, systematic reviews and subject reviews that examined the association between religious involvement and spirituality and physical health, mental health, health-related quality of life and other health outcomes.

The authors report a majority of the nearly 350 studies of physical health and 850 studies of mental health that have used religious and spiritual variables have found that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes.[1]

A medical journal article published by the American Medical Association entitled Religious Commitment and Health Status indicates:

The empirical literature from epidemiological and clinical studies regarding the relationship between religious factors (eg, frequency of religious attendance, private religious involvement, and relying on one’s religious beliefs as a source of strength and coping) and physical and mental health status in the areas of prevention, coping, and recovery was reviewed. Empirical studies from the published literature that contained at least measure of subjects’ religious commitment and at least measure of their physical or mental health status were used. In particular, studies that examined the role of religious commitment or religious involvement in the prevention of illness, coping with illnesses that have already arisen, and recovery from illness were highlighted. A large proportion of published empirical data suggest that religious commitment may play a beneficial role in preventing mental and physical illness, improving how people cope with mental and physical illness, and facilitating recovery from illness.[2]
Duke University researchers found that religious people have stronger immune systems than the irreligious. They also established that churchgoers have lower blood pressure.[3]

Sean Thomas wrote:

In the same year researchers at Duke University in America discovered that religious people have stronger immune systems than the irreligious. They also established that churchgoers have lower blood pressure.

Meanwhile in 2009 a team of Harvard psychologists discovered that believers who checked into hospital with broken hips reported less depression, had shorter hospital stays, and could hobble further when they left hospital – as compared to their similarly crippled but heathen fellow-sufferers.

The list goes on. In the last few years scientists have revealed that believers, compared to non-believers, have better outcomes from breast cancer, coronary disease, mental illness, Aids, and rheumatoid arthritis.[4]

The Duke Health website declares:

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have shown that people who regularly attend religious services appear to have a healthier immune system than those who don't. They say the mechanism behind this effect remains unclear, and the results may not apply to people who live in regions where religious participation is not a major cultural force.

In a study of 1,718 older adults in North Carolina, Dr. Harold Koenig and Dr. Harvey Cohen found that those who attended services at least once a week were about half as likely as non-attenders to have elevated levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), an immune system protein involved in a wide array of age-related diseases.

This effect persisted, albeit to a lesser degree, even when researchers accounted for factors like depression, chronic illness and negative life events that were likely to affect immune status. Results of the study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, were reported in the October issue of the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine.

Koenig speculates that religion may affect immune function through better coping skills, psychosocial factors and the mechanisms by which organized religion promote positive thoughts and behaviors.

"Perhaps religious participation enhances immune functioning by yet unknown mechanisms, such as through feelings of belonging, togetherness, even perhaps the experience of worship and adoration," said Koenig, lead author of the study. "Such positive feelings may counteract stress and convey health effects that go far beyond simply the prevention of depression or other negative emotions."[5]

Religion/irreligion and recovery from cancer

See also: Atheism and cancer

According to the American Cancer Society:

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 69% of cancer patients say they pray for their health. A recent study published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, suggests a link between religious or spiritual beliefs and better physical health reported among patients with cancer.[6]

Strong religious faith and recovery from depression

See also: Atheism and depression

The Telegraph reported: "Patients with a strong “intrinsic faith” (a deep personal belief, not just a social inclination to go to a place of worship) recover 70 per cent faster from depression than those who are not deeply religious."[7]

Bible believing Christians, prayer and miraculous healing

See also: Atheism and miracles and Atheism and the supernatural

The Christian apologist Gary Habermas wrote: "Double-blind prayer experiments: where people pray for others with terminal illness. Habermas admitted that most such experiments have not worked, but the three that he knows of that have indeed worked were cases of orthodox-Christians praying for the sick."[8]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mueller, Dr. Paul S. et al. (December 2001). "Religious involvement, spirituality, and medicine: implications for clinical practice". Mayo Clinic Proceedings vol. 76:12, pp. 1225-1235. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic Proceedings website on July 20, 2014.
  2. Religious Commitment and Health Status by Dale A. Matthews, MD; Michael E. McCullough, PhD; David B. Larson, MD, MSPH; Harold G. Koenig, MD, MHSc; James P. Swyers, MA; Mary Greenwold Milano, Arch Fam Med. 1998;7:118-124
  3. Are atheists mentally ill?
  4. Are atheists mentally ill?
  5. Duke Study: Attending Religious Service May Improve Immune Status, Duke Health, Published October 22, 1997 | Updated January 20, 2016
  6. Study: Cancer Patients with Strong Religious or Spiritual Beliefs Report Better Health, American Cancer Society
  7. What God does to your brain by Julia Llewellyn Smith. The Telegraph, 20 Jun 2014
  8. Christian Apologist: 10 Reasons for the Fall of Atheism by Gary Habermas