Study Shows Religious or Spiritual Cancer Patients Experience Increased Physical Health
- By Alison Lesley --
- 18 Aug 2015 --
Study shows spirituality and religion could improve the physical and mental health of cancer patients.
It is common to see cancer patients and all other individuals suffering from life threatening diseases question their faith and the existence of God. But based on research conducted by the National Cancer Institute on 44,000 patients, the relationship between religion and patients’ physical and psychological wellbeing could have an effect on the patients’ quality of life..
Differentiating religion from spirituality
For a more clear understanding of the research results, it is a must to differentiate religion from spirituality. Religion can be defined as the set of practices or beliefs within a certain group or church. Spirituality on the other hand is an individual’s faith, personal belief, sense of peace, purpose and connection to others. Thus, spirituality can be exercised regardless of religious affiliation.
According to a survey contained in the study, the majority of cancer patients worldwide (69%) cited that they also pray for their physical health and consider religion and spirituality as their comfort zone.
Religion’s effect on physical wellbeing
The first aspect reviewed is the effect of religion and spiritual connection to the patient’s wellbeing. Based on the patients surveyed, those who have greater religious and spiritual connections experienced better physical wellbeing. They are also much more eager in performing their medical, physical, and routine tasks. Experts however stressed that such improvements are not attributed to the actual observance of religious rites and practices like going to church, meditation, or uttering prayers. Instead, it’s the faith and spirituality that the patients have in mind.
Religion’s effect on mental health
The next aspect scrutinized by the study is on religion and mental health. The relationship was also found to be on the positive side. Patients who have a healthy religious and spiritual life tend to report better psychological health. Spiritual and religious wellbeing is said to ease depression, anxiety, discomfort, and anger.
Religion’s effect on social health
And the third aspect studied in the research is religion’s effect to the cancer patients’ social wellbeing. Again, the research concluded a positive relationship between the two. Patients with better religious and spiritual wellbeing reported to experience better social health. These patients are able to function and maintain their societal function even during their months or years of battling cancer.
Those with poor spiritual and religious wellbeing reported the opposite
As expected, patients who claimed to have struggles with their faith suffered poor physical, mental, and social health. And although the relationship between the two seems well defined, there’s really no proof yet whether religious and spiritual health affect the patients’ wellbeing or the other way around where deterioration of one’s physical health eventually led to the deterioration of the patients’ faith.
As Dr. John Salsman of the Wake Forest School of Medicine states “Unfortunately, the analyses do not allow us to derive casual explanations. The vast majority of published studies have been cross-sectional. There are simply too few longitudinal studies in this area – a real weakness of the field.”
Notwithstanding, medical professionals and service providers are urged to be more flexible on the religious and spiritual needs of their patients.