A first-of-its-kind study on the health practices of Christian
Scientists, released yesterday by Harvard Medical School, shows
"intriguing health benefits."
People identifying themselves as Christian Scientists in the study
"use far more spiritual healing" than others and "are far, far more
likely to be satisfied with their lives," the researchers found.
Fifty-two percent of the Christian Scientists said they were very
satisfied with life compared with 37 percent of non-Christian
Scientists, and 71 percent reported very good or excellent health
compared with 61 percent of others.
These findings "are at odds with the perception that Christian
Scientists are less healthy than non-Christian Scientists," say the
researchers at Harvard's Mind/Body Medical Institute.
Results of the national survey on "self-reported health and
illness" counter conventional wisdom on several fronts. For example,
it shows that Christian Scientists report fewer illnesses than non-
Christian Scientists, but also that they are as likely as the general
population to report going to a doctor or a hospital.
The report doesn't say why physician visits or hospital admissions
took place, nor does it indicate whether they had any relation to
illnesses or symptoms reported elsewhere in the study, says Herbert
Benson, president of the Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical
Center in Boston.
Gary Jones, spokesman for The First Church of Christ, Scientist,
in Boston, points out that Christian Scientists may make doctor or
hospital visits for medical exams required by employers, schools, the
military, or insurance companies and for purposes of childbirth.
This study grows out of an interest in the relationship between
spirituality and health that has burgeoned in the medical community
the past 15 years. Research studies are multiplying, and are
beginning to look at prayer as well as the link between church-going
and well-being. This is the first study of its type on Christian
Dr. Benson says his study focused on Christian Scientists "because
of the perception that they use their religious beliefs in healing
and their tendency to not use routine medical care."
"What better way to explore these connections between mind/body
healing and health than to research those who incorporate ... healing
practices, including spirituality, meditation, and prayer, into their
everyday routines," Benson says.
The fact that Christian Scientists report less illness than
others, he says, can be tied to much greater use of two practices
identified in the study: special religious services and spiritual
Benson suggests that "mind/body healing - including spiritual
approaches - could offer important health benefits and may be
synergistic to conventional medicine." The study urges further
research on whether conventional and unconventional medicine can be
combined with spiritual healing to bring significant benefits.
Benson and Jeffery Dusek, the Institute's associate director of
clinical research, co-authored the study, which appears this month in
the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, a Towson, Md.-based
monthly medical journal.
Gallup International Institute conducted the interviews with 230
individuals who identified Christian Science as their religious
preference and 589 non-Christian Scientists. …