Assignment: Centers for Disease Control
Cancer At least 29 studies have examined relationships between religion/spirituality and either the onset or the outcome of cancer (including cancer mortality). Of those, 16 (55%) found that those who are more religious or spiritual had a lower risk of developing cancer or a better prognosis, although 2 (7%) studies reported a significantly worse prognosis. Of the 20 methodologically most rigorous studies, 12 (60%) found an association between religion or spirituality and lower risk or better outcomes, and none reported worse risk or outcomes. The results from some of these studies can be partially explained by better health behaviors (less cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, etc.), but not
all. Effects not explained by better health behaviors could be explained by lower stress levels and higher social support in those who are more religious or spiritual. Although cancer is not thought to be as sensitive as cardiovascular disorders to psychosocial stressors, psychosocial influences on cancer incidence and outcome are present (Koenig, 2012).
FIGURE 5.1 Research examining the relationship between religion and health outcomes (total of 498 studies reviewed). Source: Johnson, Tompkins, & Webb (2008). Reprinted with permission from The Bay lor Institute for Studies of Religion.
Mental Health Religion can be helpful or problematic when it comes to mental health. Generally, religion is helpful in providing explanations and practices that can support individuals in understanding and dealing with distress. However, religion also can be a contributor to distress and the onset of mental illness when individuals are confronted with distress that seems to demonstrate the failure of religious beliefs (Pargament, 2013). Religion has been used to justify unhealthy and lethal behavior, for example, when a woman says God told her to kill her three children. Bad judgment and mental illness are no excuse to blame religion, but unhealthy acts do occur in the name of religion.
Depression Approximately 1 in 10 adults in the United States reports depression (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012a). Over 100 studies that examined the religion–depression relationship were reviewed by Johnson, Tompkins, and Webb (2008), and they found that religious involvement tends to be associated with less depression in 68% of the articles (see Figure 5.1).
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