Religious influences on trust in physicians and the health care system

Int J Psychiatry Med. 2006;36(1):69-83. doi: 10.2190/EKJ2-BCCT-8LT4-K01W.


Objective: Aspects of the patient-physician relationship, such as trust, influence a variety of health behaviors, including adherence to treatment regimens and the use of preventive health services. While several demographic and socioeconomic factors have been found to predict levels of trust in physicians, little is known about the influence of religious beliefs and behaviors.

Methods: The relationship between religion and medical trust was investigated within a nationally representative sample of adults in the United States (n = 1,274). More specifically, multivariate models were used to analyze the associations between religious affiliation, attendance, and strength of affiliation and three types of trust: personal trust in one's physician, general confidence in physicians, and trust in the health care system.

Results: Findings reveal that religiously active individuals have higher levels of trust in physicians. For example, individuals who attend religious services frequently (42% of the sample) are significantly more likely to trust their own physician (p < .05) and have higher levels of confidence in physicians in general (p < .01), compared to individuals who never attend. In addition, levels of trust vary by religious denomination with Mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews reporting more trust than Evangelical Protestants. For example, Mainline Protestants have more personal trust in their physicians (p < .01), general confidence in physicians (p <.05), and trust in the health care system (p < .05), compared to Evangelical Protestants.

Conclusions: This study is the first to examine religious differences in medical trust. The findings add to the current knowledge on factors associated with trust in health care providers and may help to explain religious differences in the use of preventive services and other health behaviors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Trust*
  • United States