Wednesday, January 17, 2007

January 17, 2007 - Faith Heals...Online, or Anywhere Else

From time to time, I run across articles that speak of the impact of religious faith on healing. While I’ve yet to see a scientific study on this slippery subject that’s completely convincing, there’s a whole lot of circumstantial evidence that suggests that religious faith is good for our health.

Today, I come upon another one of these: an online news bulletin from iVillage Total Health, a medical information service, that summarizes a recent University of Wisconsin study. The results from this study were published in the February issue of the journal, Psycho-Oncology.

What these researchers did was to examine a group of breast-cancer patients who have been in touch with each other through online support groups. They first gave the women questionnaires, designed to assess their emotional state – both at the beginning of the study and at its conclusion. Then, they analyzed the verbal, e-mail responses of these women over a certain period of time, looking for certain religious words: “holy,” “pray,” “God,” “worship” and the like.

The researchers discovered that “women who used a higher percentage of religious words had lower levels of negative emotions. They demonstrated higher levels of self-efficacy and functional well-being, even after controlling for the pre-program religious belief levels. The participants appeared to use a number of different ways to cope with their illness. These included placing trust in God and finding blessings in their lives. Patients also expressed a belief in the afterlife resulting in a lower fear of death.”

So, it seems faith and healing are intimately related. Just about any pastor – one who’s visited a lot of hospital patients, anyway – could have told the researchers that.

They just had to find out for themselves, that’s all.

1 comment:

Ben said...

While I don't doubt that faith can ease the burden of cancer or any illness, the study you sight really isn't very good.

Perhaps the most readable critic comes from the Respectful Insolence blog at ScienceBlogs.

It appears the scientists involved chose an hypothesis and were determined to follow it whether the evidence was there or not.

That isn't to say that having faith or being heavily involved in a church does not help breast cancer patients or whether the final outcome of deeply religous breast cancer patients isn't improved over non-religious patients. But the paper really doesn't show any of that.

Wishing you well.