Religion and Medicine


“‘Various research results have shown quite an extraordinary association between religious involvement, broadly considered, and likelihood of death among elderly people. At present the reason for this association is unclear. However, it is quite substantial, almost a 50% reduction in the risk of dying during follow-up and close to a 30% reduction when corrected for other known predictors of mortality. This effect on survival is equivalent in magnitude to that of not smoking versus smoking cigarettes (about seven years added to life).’

‘Religious struggle was associated with a greater risk of mortality. Although the magnitude of the effects associated with religious struggle was relatively small (from 6% to 10% increased risk of mortality), the effects remained significant even after controlling for a number of possible confounding variables. … Furthermore, we were able to identify specific forms of religious struggle that were more predictive of mortality. Patients’ reports that they felt alienated from or unloved by God and attributed their illness to the devil were associated with a 19% to 28% increase in risk of dying during the approximately 2-year follow-up period.'”

– Niall Shanks, God, The Devil, and Darwin


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