A Quick Question
Does Religion Improve Your Health?
The quick answer: Yes! A loving relationship with God may be a key to enjoying better health.
The longer answer: According to a new clinical study, people who strongly affirm that they love God and feel loved by God or a higher power score higher on a measure of overall health. The results, published in the latest issue of Review of Religious Research the peer-reviewed journal of the Religious Research Association, show that loving God is a strong and significant factor determining perceptions of health, even after controlling for other social, psychological, and disease-related factors known to affect how people rate their health.
The investigator, Dr. Jeff Levin, a social epidemiologist and former medical school professor, is author of the new book God, Faith, and Health: Exploring the Spirituality-Healing Connection (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2001). He is best known as the pioneering scientist whose research beginning in the 1980s helped create the field of religion, spirituality, and health. His research has been funded by a wide range of sources, including the National Institutes of Health, the American Medical Association, and the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
This new study drew on a sample of 205 primary care patients in an academic family practice in Virginia who were surveyed in 1997-98. An eight-item scale, based on the work of the late sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, was validated to assess what Dr. Levin referred to as "giving love to God or the absolute and receiving it in return."
Respondents who scored higher on this scale were found to have greater self-esteem, a greater sense of self-efficacy or mastery, and less functional disability or activity limitation. They also rated their health as significantly better than those with lower scores on the scale.
These findings of a significant health effect of loving God withstood controlling for the effects of other known determinants of self-assessed health, including religious involvement, social and psychological resources, objective health status, and a variety of sociodemographic factors.
According to Dr. Levin, "There is great potential for classical sources of human strength, such as love, to find their place into theories of health and healing. A loving relationship with God is held to be an especially potent source of well-being according to many of the world’s faiths. This study shows, for the first time, that this is empirically true."
Dr. Levin hopes that the results of this study will contribute to the establishment of a new area of research that he has termed the "epidemiology of love."
Jeff Levin, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Web address: www.religionandhealth.com
Jeff Levin. (vol.42:3, March, 2001). "God, Love, and Health: Findings from a Clinical Study." Review of Religious Research.
Title: "Dimensions, Determinants, and Health Outcomes of Love"
Principle Investigator: Jeff Levin, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Funding Source: Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), Sausalito, CA
Sample Size: 205
Study Design: systematic clinical sample; self-administered cross-sectional survey
Jeff Levin. (2000). "A Prolegomenon to an Epidemiology of Love: Theory, Measurement, and Health Outcomes." Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 19:117-136.
Jeff Levin. (1999). "The Power of Love" [Interview]. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 5(4):78-86.
Cate Cummings Publicity and Promotion Group
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