16 Oct Religion, happiness and health…a fascinating relationship
Happiness – Is religion a good prescription?
by Nigel Barber for Psychology Today
Some doctors (1) claim that the health benefits are so clear, and so pronounced that they should be prescribing religion! This perspective is a little naêve. After all, wealthy people live longer healthier lives than the poor. Does this mean that physicians should be prescribing wealth? Or how about advising single people to marry?
Moreover, when scientific medicine turns around and involves itself in religion, it begins to look much more like the shamanism of old and much less than science. Secular equivalents of religion’s effects, such as yoga and relaxation training are more appropriate for doctors to investigate and recommend.
Health benefits of religion
Despite heated ongoing controversy, the health benefits of religion are hard to ignore (see Kindness in a Cruel World, chapter 6). Greater length of life, better recovery time from operations and from depression point to religious observance as a key ingredient in stress management and health.
With these phenomena in mind, some doctors claim they should advise patients to be more active in their churches in much the same vein as they are advising them to exercise or control their cholesterol level. Yet, they may be getting ahead of the evidence.
Oddly enough, there is no evidence that religion, per se, provides any health advantage. In other words, religious people benefit from church membership but they do so irrespective of the doctrinal content, religious practices, or even health behavior, advocated by their particular belief system. We know this because the health advantages of all of the major world religions are about the same with the qualification that most of the research has looked at Christians and Jews.
However inconsistent mainstream religions are in their practices and rituals, they may nevertheless promote the conviction that our existence is purposeful and our lives worthwhile…
…interested in reading more about this and finding out how, if at all, it relates to our discussions here on happiness? JUST CLICK HERE