Faith and Wellness
For most evangelical Protestants, faith and wellness are inseparably linked.
In fact, while evangelicals often disagree with each other on topics such as giving, what they want in a church, views on Israel, worship styles, politics, and even how they refer to themselves, there is almost universal agreement on the relationship between faith and wellness.
Grey Matter Research and Infinity Concepts explored evangelical views on how faith affects physical and mental health, the impact of prayer, and the role of faith with their primary physician.
The result is the new report Faith and Wellness: Evangelical Insights on Healing and Physicians. (For a free copy of Faith and Wellness, simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The Role of Faith in Health
Only 1% of all evangelicals do not believe a strong Christian faith, praying, or reading the Bible contribute to positive mental health. Almost as few do not believe a strong Christian faith (4%), praying (2%), or reading the Bible (2%) contribute to positive physical health. What’s more, the vast majority strongly believe each of these things contributes to positive mental and physical health.
Ninety-nine percent believe praying for someone who is in poor health can help improve that person’s physical health, and the same proportion believe God can heal people physically through their own prayers or someone else’s prayer for them. Around nine out of ten hold these beliefs strongly. In research, this level of agreement on almost any topic among almost any group is rarely seen.
Theoretical More than Practical
Faith and Wellness details many things Americans continue to do even though we know they are bad for us. For instance, 42% of us are obese, 91% fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables, and 76% of us do not get sufficient exercise.
Unfortunately, evangelicals can add to this list “failing to do spiritual activities which can improve mental and physical health.” For example, among evangelicals who strongly believe reading the Bible contributes to positive mental health, 60% still do not read it daily, and 26% do not read it even monthly. Six out of ten evangelicals are confident a strong Christian faith can benefit them mentally and physically but only have moderate or low engagement in spiritual practices such as reading and studying the Bible, praying, and attending worship and small group Bible study or prayer.
Doctors of Faith?
Two-thirds of evangelicals with a primary physician have no idea about the spiritual beliefs of that doctor. Among those who do know, 86% say their primary physician is a fellow Christian believer, and half of those said their doctor’s religious beliefs influenced their decision to choose that doctor.
Seven out of ten evangelicals feel having a doctor who is a fellow believer would (or does) increase their confidence in that doctor.
The number of evangelicals who don’t have a Christian doctor (or don’t know whether they do), but wish they did, is almost as large as the population of Texas.
The report quotes extensive research showing a majority of US physicians believe in God, attend religious services at least occasionally, and even believe there are situations in which it is appropriate to pray with a patient. Yet a study by four Mayo Clinic Hospital researchers shows only 21% of physicians have prayed with patients, even though 45% pray frequently.
There is an extensive body of research which demonstrates that trust in doctors is a critical element of successful medical care. A majority of doctors have religious faith. Most evangelicals would have more confidence in a doctor who is a Christian (not to mention people of other faiths and beliefs who may also feel this way).
All of this suggests both patients and doctors need to consider how to bridge the religious gap in patient care, when it is appropriate for the doctor and desired by the patient.
Faith and Wellness: Evangelical Insights on Healing and Physicians reports the findings from a study of more than 1,000 evangelical Protestant adults. The report is available free (e-mail email@example.com).
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