The long-standing interest in the effects of religiosity and spirituality (R/S) on health outcomes has given rise to a large and diverse literature. We conducted a meta-analysis on research involving R/S and physiological markers of health to elucidate both the scope and mechanism(s) of this phenomenon. A combined analysis found a significant, but small, beneficial effect. Subgroup analyses found that some measures of both extrinsic and intrinsic religiosity were significantly associated with health. Several outcome measures, including blood pressure, C-reactive protein, and cardiovascular health markers, were significantly associated with R/S. Our findings suggest that R/S benefits health, perhaps through minimizing the disruptive effects of stress/depression on inflammation. We hope that researchers can use these results to guide efforts aimed at elucidating the true mechanism(s) linking religious/spiritual beliefs and physical health.
Keywords: Health; Immune function; Meta-analysis; Prayer; Religiosity; Spirituality; Stress.