"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise." — Jeremiah 17:14.
The Bible is filled with references about the healing power of prayer and today researchers are proving that people who believe in a higher power are indeed healthier mentally, emotionally, and physically. Plus, studies have shown that people of faith live longer. One nationwide study from Ohio state University found that people who have religious affiliations lived nearly 4 years longer than those who had no ties to religion.
Dr. Harold G. Koenig, M.D., professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University, Medical Center, tells Newsmax:
"Studies prove prayer can prevent people from getting sick — and when they do get sick, prayer can help them get better faster," he says, adding that an exhaustive analysis of 1,500 medical studies indicated that people who are more religious and pray more have better health.
Here are some eye-opening statistics examining the role of faith in common conditions according to Dr. Koenig:
- Depression. This is the most common emotional disorder in the world, especially among medical patients. Religious involvement is linked to 61% less depression and faster recovery from depression.
- Suicide. Among those religiously involved, 75% of the studies found there are fewer suicides and more negative attitudes toward suicide in that population.
- Alcohol use and drug dependence. A full 86% of those who are religiously involved do not abuse drugs or alcohol and 84% are less likely to use illicit drugs.
- Well-being and happiness. In 70% of the studies, religious involvement is related to a better all-round feeling of wellness.
- Exercise, weight, and risky behaviors. Having a firm belief in religion correlated to 68% of people who exercise more and are physically active. They also engage in less extra-marital sex and safer sexual practices.
- Cardiovascular functions. Religious people have 57% lower blood pressure, 63% better cardiovascular health, and 63% less coronary artery disease.
- Immune and endocrine functions. A full 56% of those who have religious affiliations enjoy stronger immune functions and a whopping 74% have better endocrine functions.
- Mortality. Religious involvement is related to greater longevity overall.
On the flip side, lack of faith has negative consequences.
"As religious involvement declines in the Americas, the result of increasing secularization, crime rates, alcohol and drug use and addiction are increasing," says Koenig.
Koenig says that the brain and higher cortical processes are directly connected through the nervous system to the major physiological healing systems: the immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems. This connection allows how we think affect our physiological well-being.
Koenig, the author of "Spirituality in Patient Care," urges doctors to take a spiritual history of their patients and have a conversation about these issues.
"I think physicians should identify the spiritual needs of the patients and ensure that someone meets these needs," he says. "They may even pray with the patient if requested and work with the faith community with the patient’s consent."
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