Faith and Health: Psychological Perspectives

Faith and Health: Psychological Perspectives

Faith and Health: Psychological Perspectives

Faith and Health: Psychological Perspectives

Synopsis

This volume reviews and integrates the growing body of contemporary psychological research on the links between religious faith and health outcomes. It presents up-to-date findings from empirical studies of populations ranging from healthy individuals to those with specific clinical problems, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, and psychological disorders. Drawing on multiple perspectives in psychology, the book examines such critical questions as the impact of religious practices on health behaviors and health risks; the role played by faith in adaptation to illness or disability; and possible influences on physiological functioning and mortality. Chapters reflect the close collaboration of the editors and contributing authors, who discuss commonalities and differences in their work, debate key methodological concerns, and outline a cohesive agenda for future research.

Excerpt

There has been strong interest in the relationship between religious faith and health for thousands of years. Many people, across diverse religious traditions, have sought spiritual guidance and religious support to help avoid, recover from, or cope with both physical and emotional problems. in recent years, the mass media have paid a great deal of attention to these issues, with feature television programs and cover stories in the news weeklies examining the role of faith and health. At the same time, scientists have begun to evaluate empirically the relationship between religious faith and health outcomes. a growing number of well-conceived and methodologically rigorous studies have been conducted to examine whether religious beliefs and behaviors might be tied to either health benefits or health risks. Specifically, findings are not uniform, but several investigations have suggested that religiousness is associated with better health practices, enhanced ability to cope with illness and adversity, and lower rates of mortality from all causes. Other studies have noted links with lower depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug use and higher self-esteem, marital adjustment, life satisfaction, and well-being. Research has also begun to explore whether forgiveness, hope, or service to others are associated with positive health outcomes, such as lower cardiovascular risks.

What types of health outcomes have been linked with what dimensions of faith? How robust or meaningful are these connections? For which individuals, in which circumstances, are these ties most important? How do we explain these relationships?

Although there are a growing number of studies that have examined relationships between faith and health, few contemporary comprehensive books exist that provide state-of-the-art thinking and findings from experts in this area of research and practice. the purpose of this book is to provide the reader with an up-to-date assessment of what we know about the rela-

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