Religion and spirituality are positive forces for patients facing illnesses, but those beliefs alone wont help the sick get better, physicians say in a new national survey that examines the relationship between faith and medical care.
About 85% of doctors believe that spirituality is generally positive for their patients, but only about 6% said they feel that religion actually makes a difference in outcomes, according to the survey published in the April 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. About two-thirds of the 1,144 randomly selected doctors who were mailed a survey in 2003 said they believe that illness often or always increases patients awareness of religion and spiritual issues.
About 54% of the doctors said they believe that at times a supernatural being intervenes.
The report acknowledges that the link between religion and health generates controversy. Consensus seems to begin and end with the idea that many (if not most) patients draw on prayer and other religious resources to navigate and overcome the spiritual challenges that arise in their experience of illness, the authors wrote. Controversy remains regarding whether, to what extent and in what ways religion and spirituality helps or harms patients health.