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Faith and Spirituality Can Improve Your Health

For a physician who earned his medical degree in traditional fashion, Dr. Larry Dossey has been on the unconditional route ever since. Dossey is a pioneer in helping Americans become aware that research shows prayer can be healing. At Duke University, Dr. Harold Koenig has performed a similar role to connect a faith life with fewer health problems as people age.

Without any judgment about the right religion or even if one needs to follow organized religion (in fact, we dig what the Jewish rabbi and best-selling author Harold Kushner said, “spirituality brings us together and religion breaks us apart”), here is a review of important studies connecting spirituality and good health:

Four of every 10 Americans say they have been cured of an illness or enjoyed significantly improved conditions as a result of personal prayer or meditation.

Those who attend religious services at least once a week have been shown to have stronger immune system function compared with less frequent attendees (Koenig published this study).

Patients are three times more likely to survive open-heart surgery if they depend on their religious faith. Hip-fracture patients with a self-evaluated faith life can walk longer distances and experience less depression than non-religious patients.

Hospital stays are nearly 2.5 times longer for older patients without a faith affiliation, compared to older patients who regular attend a place of worship. The same study showed that older adults are less likely to be hospitalized if they regularly attend faith services.

In a study of more than 2,600 individuals in the Boomer generation, Koenig discovered participants with a faith life or house of worship habit were 50 percent less likely to suffer from depression.

During a two-year study, researchers followed 225 elderly people were forced to move from their homes. Individuals who were “spiritually committed” turned to be twice as likely to survive the two-year period, even after controlling for gender and health status.

In a study of 400 men, a strong faith life was found to cut high blood pressure risks, even among men who smoked. 

Dossey reported on research evaluating the healing of 393 patients in a San Francisco Cardiac Care Unit. One group was randomly assigned to receive long-distance prayer from a prayer group or to be in a control group that did not receive prayer. The patients receiving prayer had more favorable outcomes and significantly less congestive heart failure, pneumonia and heart attacks, plus they required fewer antibiotics, than the control group.

Bob Condor blogs for Alternative Health Journal every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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