Spiritual and religious beliefs and practices of family physicians: a national survey

J Fam Pract. 1999 Feb;48(2):98-104.


Background: The current movement in American medicine toward patient-centered or relationship-centered care highlights the importance of assessing physician core beliefs and personal philosophies. Religious and spiritual beliefs are often entwined within this domain. The purpose of this study was to identify the personal religious and spiritual beliefs and practices of family physicians and to test a valid and reliable measure of religiosity that would be useful in physician populations.

Methods: An anonymous survey was mailed to a random sample of active members of the American Academy of Family Physicians who had the self-designated professional activity of direct patient care. Physicians reported their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, including frequency of religious service attendance and private prayer or spiritual practice, and self-reported intrinsic or subjective religiosity.

Results: Seventy-four percent of the surveyed physicians reported at least weekly or monthly service attendance, and 79% reported a strong religious or spiritual orientation. A small percentage (4.5%) of physicians stated they do not believe in God. A 3-dimensional religiosity scale that assessed organized religious activity, nonorganized religious activity, and intrinsic religiosity was determined to be a valid and reliable measure (alpha = .87) of physician religious and spiritual beliefs and practices.

Conclusions: Family physicians report religious and spiritual beliefs and practices at rates that are comparable with the general population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards
  • United States