Religion and Health Polls

The following national religion and health polls validate that most Americans 1) believe that there is a positive connection between religion and health and 2) desire faith interventions on some levels of health care.

TIME June 24, 1996


In the healing power of prayer?
Yes                        82%   

No                         13 %


Praying for someone else can help cure their illness?
Yes                        73%   

No                         21%

God sometimes intervenes to cure people who have a serious illness?
Yes                        77%   

No                         18%

Healing faith in personal touch?

Yes                        28%   

No                         63%

Doctors should join their patients in prayer if the patients request it?
Yes                        64%   

No                         27%

(*From a telephone poll of 1,004 adult Americans taken for TIME/CNN on June 12-13,  1996 - Yankelovich Partners Inc. Sampling error is + 3.1% "Not sures" omitted.)



79% believe spiritual faith can help people recover from illness, injury or disease. Women are slightly more likely than men to believe this. 83 percent of women say spiritual faith can help people recover, 73 percent of men say it can.

56% say their faith has helped them recover from illness, injury or disease. Again, slightly more women than men stated this - 60 percent vs. 51 percent. Most interesting: 49 percent of 18 to 34 year olds say their spiritual faith has helped them heal. That number rises to 62 percent in the 45-54 age group.

63% believe it is good for doctors to talk to patients about spiritual faith. In the youngest age group, 18-34, 60 percent think it is a good thing. That increases as people age, with 67 percent of those 55-64 agreeing.

Yet only 10% say a doctor has talked to them about their spiritual faith as a factor in physical health. More people in the South - 14 percent - say their doctor has talked to them about faith. In the Northeast, half as many, or 7 percent, say so; in the West, 8 percent; in the North Central region, 10 percent.

This scientific poll of 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted for USA WEEKEND Feb.16-20, 1996 by ICR Research Group. (Margin of error; plus or minus 3 percentage points.)


MARCH 24-26, 1997

Do you believe in God, or a universal spirit?

Yes                                           96%   

No                                              3%            

No Opinion                                    1%


How important would you say religion is in your own life?

Very Important                            61%

Fairly Important                           27%

Not Very Important                       11%

No Opinion                                     1%

Do you believe that religion can answer all or most of today's problems or that religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date?

Can Answer                                61%

Old Fashion                                 20%

No Opinion                                  19%

Church Attendance

How often do you attend church or synagogue?

At least once a week                    30%

Almost every week                       13%

About once a month                     17%

Seldom                                       30%

Never                                        9%

No opinion                                  1%

Did you, yourself, happen to attend church or synagogue in the last seven days, or not?

Yes                                           43%

No                                             57%

Do you happen to be a member of a church or synagogue?

Yes                                           67%

No                                            33%

At the present time, do you think religion as a whole is increasing its influence on American life or losing its influence?

Increasing its influence                  36%

Losing its influence                       57%

Same                                           3%  

No opinion                                     4%

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18+, conducted March 24-26, 1997. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is + (or) - 3 percentage points.


CBS NEWS Polling Results - 1998

1. 80% believe personal prayer or other spiritual and religious practices can speed or help the medical treatment of people who are ill.

2. 22% say they have been cured of an illness as a result of personal prayer or other spiritual and religious practices.

3. 63% believe doctors should join their patients in prayer to ask for help in curing an illness, if patients request it.

4. 34% believe that prayer should be a standard part of the practice of medicine.

5. 59% say religion is very important or extremely important in their daily lives.

6. 60% say they pray at least once a day.

7. 64% say they pray for their own health.

8. 82% say they pray for the health of others.

Research Studies


Important Research Studies On Spirituality and Health in the mid - late 1990s


Within the past two decades, a growing body of research documenting the impact of spirituality in the fields of physical and mental health, addictions and neuroscience has been published. This research has shown the clinical relevance and importance of addressing a patient’s religious commitment. "Although obviously not a panacea for all physical, emotional or social problems, based on the published research findings, spiritual or religious commitment appears to contribute to health," according to  Dr. David B. Larson. [1]  In the past several years alone, numerous studies documenting the impact of spirituality on health have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Below are some of the most intriguing studies.  


1. Surviving Heart Surgery


A study of 232 patients at Dartmouth Medical School found that elderly heart patients were 14 times less likely to die following surgery if they found strength and comfort in their religious faith and remained socially involved.

Oxman, T.E., Freeman, D.H., Manheimer, E.D. "Lack of Social Participation or Religious Strength and Comfort as Risk Factors for Death after Cardiac Surgery in the Elderly." Psychosomatic Medicine 1995; 57(1): 5-15.


2. Improving Immune Functioning


A pioneering study of more than 1,700 older adults from North Carolina conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that persons who attended church at least once a week were only half as likely as non-attenders to have elevated levels of interleukin-6, an immune system protein involved in a wide variety of age related diseases.

Koenig, H.K., et al. "Attendance at Religious Services, Interleukin-6, and Other Biological Parameters of Immune Function in Older Adults." International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine 1997; 27(3): 233-250.


3. Reducing the Risk of Earlier Death


In a study that followed persons from a community for over 28 years, showed that those who attended religious services weekly or more were 25 percent less likely to die than infrequent attendees. Not only were frequent attendees likely to live longer, once they began to attend church they also made healthier lifestyle choices, becoming more apt to quit smoking, to increase exercising, to expand their social support network and to stay married, noted the authors of this study of 5,286 people in Alameda County, California. Thus, these health-enhancing behaviors of the religiously motivated seemed to contribute, at least in part, to their lower death rates.


Strawbridge, W.J., et al. "Frequent Attendance at Religious Services and Mortality over 28 Years." American Journal of Public Health 1997; 87(6): 957-961.


4. Recovering from Depression


In a study of 87 depressed older adults hospitalized with medical illness, researchers at Duke University found the extent to which a patient's religious faith was a central motivating force in their lives, the faster they recovered from depression.


Koenig, H.G., George, L.K., Peterson, B.L. "Religiosity and Remission of Depression in Medically Ill Older Patients." American Journal of Psychiatry 1998; 155(4): 536-542.


5. Reducing Length of Hospital Stays


In a study of 542 patients aged 60 or older admitted consecutively to Duke University Medical Center, those who attended religious services weekly or more sliced hospital stays by more than half. People with no religious affiliation spent an average of 25 days in the hospital compared to 11 days for patients affiliated with some religious denomination. Patients who attended religious services weekly or more also were 43 percent less likely to have been hospitalized in the previous year.

Koenig, H.G., Larson, D.B. "Use of Hospital Services, Religious Attendance, and Religious Affiliation." Southern Medical Journal 1998; 91(10): 925-932.


6. Preventing High Blood Pressure


Risk of diastolic hypertension ranked 40 percent lower among people who both attended religious services at least once a week and prayed or studied the Bible at least daily, Duke University researchers found in a study of nearly 4,000 people aged 65 years and older. These findings remained even after taking into account age, gender, race, education and other clinical factors that could affect blood pressure outcomes. (Koenig, H.G., et al. "The Relationship Between Religious Activities and Blood Pressure in Older Adults." International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine 1998; 28(2): 189-213.)


Reducing Risk of Earlier Death


7. Predicting Longer Lives


Attending worship services on a regular basis was an important factor in predicting longevity in a study of 2,025 senior citizens living in Marin County, California. A range of other factors that might have contributed to health and living longer were taken into account, but attending religious services was found to be the most important predictive variable. (Oman, D., Reed, D. "Religion and Mortality Among the Community-Dwelling Elderly." American Journal of Public Health 1998; 88(10): 1469-1475.)


8. Expanding the Life Span


Attending religious services more than once a week can expand one’s life up to seven years and add a potential 14 more years to the life span of African Americans. Tracking a national sample of more than 21,000 U.S. adults, a 1999 study published in Demography examined numerous social, economic and health and lifestyle factors, as well as frequency of religious attendance, to see who was most likely to avoid death by any cause during the nine-year follow-up study period. Religious attendance surfaced as a strong predictor for living longer, even when other relevant clinical or social factors were taken into account. (Hummer, R.A., Rogers, R.G., Nam, C. B., Ellison, C.G. "Religious Involvement and U.S. Adult Mortality." Demography 1999; 36(2): 1-13.)


9. Marriage Satisfaction


Researchers interviewing 97 couples about their involvement in joint religious activities and perceptions regarding the sanctification of marriage (viewing one’s marriage as having spiritual character or significance) found that these variables were positively associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction, more perceived benefits from the relationship, less conflict, more verbal collaboration and less use of verbal aggression. According to the researchers, joint religious activities provided opportunities for couples to participate in meaningful or enjoyable rituals together, to discuss and develop a set of shared values and to provide each other with support. Additionally, couples who perceived their relationship as being a sanctified object were more likely to act and think in ways which protected their relationship.


Mahoney, A. et al. "Marriage and the Spiritual Realm: The Role of Proximal and Distal Religious Constructs in Marital Functioning." Journal of Family Psychology 1999; 13(3): 321-338.

Summary - Conclusion

Science supports the combined usage of ‘Prayer and Prozac’ (religion and medicine) as a holistic approach to  preventing  and treating illness and disease, as well as a better means of modifying behavior. National polls demonstrate that the adult American public is overwhelmingly religious and believes in the use of religion for health purposes.  The faith world is being solicited for their assistance and faith-based interventions are being validated as effective tools in mental health therapy.  It is reasonable to conclude that faith therapies such as REST should be officially brought to the table and tested for efficacy and effectiveness and compared to non-faith health related interventions. From this point in history  forward,  research will continue to demonstrate that the  universal goal to improve the human species, by extending both health and life, can best be achieved by a corroboration of science, medicine, religion and spirituality.