Is religion good for your health?

Africa saints pilgrimage. Catholic Mass. St-Maurice abbey. Faith. Church. Pray. Candles.The practise of religion influences health more than we realise. For instance, certain moral practices limit the spread of disease. Supportive community relationships promote healthy minds. Religious groups often provide medical services to their members and local communities. Indeed, the interaction between mind, body and the divine are thought by many to prompt recovery.

At the forefront of research in this area, Professor Harold Koenig demonstrates that people with high religious or spiritual leanings are less prone to depression, anxiety and suicide. They are less prone to crime and substance abuse. They enjoy more stable marriages and stronger social support. They suffer lower rates of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes.

Koenig attributes these trends to 3 features:

  1. The meaning and purpose offered by religious faith
  2. The moral guidance and habits promoted by religion
  3. The positive social behaviours within religious community

However, there can be a range of negative impacts on health, especially when religion fans the flames of conflict. Even in more peaceful times, physical, sexual and emotional abuse diminishes the health and wellbeing of many vulnerable adherents. Relationships within religious communities can become toxic rather than supportive.

Harm can also come when religion comes into conflict with medical science. A resistance to vaccines is one example. Opposition to blood transfusion is another. Religious healers may discourage their followers from seeking medical help when they are convinced that the action of God will cure a malady.

We might ask the question: On balance, is religion generally good for people’s health? But this is not the key issue for you or I. Perhaps it is better to address this personally. Is your faith good for your health? Is it good for those who share it with you, and for others around you who do not? How could it be better?

To look more deeply into these issues, take a look at the following:

3 thoughts on “Is religion good for your health?

  1. What else can we do?
    The Holy Spirit can help us to take good care of our bodies (including our brains!). Giving our bodies the right food, the right drinks, the right thoughts, the right movements, the right breaks… the right balance!
    “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies”. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)


  2. Religion gives meaning of life which in essence is an assurance to get free from stress. Religion helps in same instance yoga which is relaxation of the mind. I guess if people were committed to religious teachings on health we could avoid lifestyle diseases.


  3. Active participation in ‘good’ religion can enhance good living and, therefore, impact positively on one’s health. Like Koenig says, some religions promote harmful practices or practices which may hurt health in some ways, otherwise avoiding certain ways and behaviours or habits for the sake of religion can be very good for healthy living. Studies have shown that faithfulness in monogamous marriage or long-term relationship greatly reduces sexually transmitted infections risk; less alcohol consumption or less smoking are healthy good practices; and friendly non-violent living is healthy for self and for others in the community.

    A study done in Uganda by Prof. Magid Kagimu, a Muslim medical doctor, in which I participated found among other things that living a prayerful life and spending regular time in individual and communal worship of God, prevents many infections including HIV, brings happiness, builds good relationships, and prolongs life


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