YORK (AP) – The links between health and faith keep accumulating. Two
new studies add to evidence that religious belief and practice somehow
contribute to physical vigor.
past research has found that connection in religious groups with
special dietary and anti smoking rules, it now has turned up in large,
mainline denominations without the special disciplines.
commitment itself was found to make the bodily difference. That factor
also seemed to make the most difference in mainline denominations.
latest research in this area was conducted at Purdue University by
medical sociologist Kenneth F. Ferraro, with results published recently
in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.
His main conclusion: Those who practice their faith regularly are healthier than those who don't.
the study, responses were gathered from 1,473 people nationwide, with
the data controlled to eliminate such health-influencing factors as
age, income and education.
we controlled for those factors we found that religion was having a
surprisingly strong effect," he says. "It proved to be nearly as
significant as age and social class."
determining religious levels, respondents were asked how often they
pray, whether they consider themselves strong in faith, how often they
attend synagogue or church and whether they read religious literature.
by those factors as either "practicing" religion or "nonpracticing,"
the subjects comparative levels of health were gauged
It was found that twice more "nonpracticing" than "practicing" the subjects reported health problems.
percent, or 133 of those in the nonpracticing category reported poor
health, while only 4 percent, or 59 people in the practicing category
reported poor health.
while 26 percent, or 383 of the "never attenders" at worship, reported
excellent health, 36 percent, or 530 of the "weekly attenders" reported
says the main religious factor affecting health was found to be
participation, but he says religious affiliation also turned out to be
example, the findings showed that people affiliated with the more
mainline denominations such as Episcopalian, Presbyterians, Methodists,
Lutherans and Roman Catholics have the better health.
contrast, he says people reporting special religious affiliations such
as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Christian Scientists and some
Baptists report lower health levels.
or not people are actively involved in their religion makes the biggest
difference in health status," He says. "However, the data also
told us that the kind of religion they participate in makes difference,
says future studies will explore reasons for that difference. He notes
some groups restrict medical practices — Jehovah's Witnesses don’t
allow blood transfusions and Christian Scientists shun various medical
the other hand, he notes some conservative faiths prohibit smoking and
eliminate caffeine from diets with "positive health results." This is
the case with Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists, who also promote
studies have shown Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists have lower rates
of cancer, heart and circulatory disease and greater longevity than the
recent study at Northern Illinois University in De Kalb, Ill., found
consistent correlations between "religiosity" and health-related
of that study, conducted by William Oleckno, professor of community
health, and Michael J. Blacconiere of Hines Veterans Administration
Hospital near Chicago, were published in Psychological Reports.
a representative sample of 1,077 NIU students from various class years
and academic majors, they were categorized for "religiosity" and
was based on frequency of attendance at worship and stated strength of
religious commitment, while "wellness" was measured by such factors as
the number of illnesses reported, avoidance of smoking, drugs and
alcohol, plus use of seat belts.
"There was a positive association between religiosity scores and each of the dimensions of wellness," Oleckno said.
Studies show that people with faith are healthier
(The Holland Sentinel, Friday, December 18, 1992)