Objective: To assess religious perceptions and activities of physicians and older patients and to determine whether religious activities are associated with life satisfaction.
Design and setting: A cross-sectional survey of practicing Virginia internists and psychiatrists and hospitalized or institutionalized (nursing home) older adults.
Participants: One hundred randomly sampled practicing physicians and 55 hospitalized or institutionalized older patients.
Methods: A mailed survey was used for the physicians and a structured interview for the patients. All subjects provided information pertaining to demographics and life satisfaction using the Life Satisfaction Index (LSI-B). For physicians or patients who engaged in any religious activity, the Intrinsic/Extrinsic Religiosity (I/E-R) scale was used.
Results: Of the 100 physicians (49 internists and 51 psychiatrists) who answered the survey (50% response rate), 75% used religious activity as a coping resource (39% somewhat, 36% definitely). There was a positive correlation between intrinsic religious activity (e.g., prayer, Bible reading) and life satisfaction (r = .293, P = .042). Of the 55 patients interviewed, 47 (86%) used religion as a coping resource, and intrinsic religious activity was positively associated with life satisfaction (r = .843, P < .001). Even after controlling for age, gender, health, and marital status, intrinsic religious activity remained a predictor of higher life satisfaction.
Conclusions: Intrinsic religious activity is associated positively with life satisfaction in physicians and ill older adults.