Religion and spirituality. Linkages to physical health

Am Psychol. 2003 Jan;58(1):36-52. doi: 10.1037/0003-066x.58.1.36.


Evidence is presented that bears on 9 hypotheses about the link between religion or spirituality and mortality, morbidity, disability, or recovery from illness. In healthy participants, there is a strong, consistent, prospective, and often graded reduction in risk of mortality in church/service attenders. This reduction is approximately 25% after adjustment for confounders. Religion or spirituality protects against cardiovascular disease, largely mediated by the healthy lifestyle it encourages. Evidence fails to support a link between depth of religiousness and physical health. In patients, there are consistent failures to support the hypotheses that religion or spirituality slows the progression of cancer or improves recovery from acute illness but some evidence that religion or spirituality impedes recovery from acute illness. The authors conclude that church/service attendance protects healthy people against death. More methodologically sound studies are needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Death
  • Disease Progression
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Risk Factors
  • Spirituality*