Evidence is growing that religion can be good medicine.
"I believe that physicians can and should encourage patients' autonomous religious activities," says researcher Dale Matthews of Georgetown University. "I'm not saying that physicians should supplant clergy or that prayer should supplant Prozac."
He and other researchers presented the latest evidence of the influence of religious belief on health at the annual meeting Sunday of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Matthews reviewed 212 studies and found that three-fourths showed a positive effect of religious commitment on health. Only 7 percent concluded that religion was bad for health.
One of the largest studies is following 4,000 elderly women to see if their beliefs seem to affect their health. Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University Medical Center said preliminary results showed that the women who attended church were both physically healthier and less depressed.
But simply being religious was not enough. He also found that people who sit home praying alone or watching television evangelists actually are worse off than other …