Speaking of Life

Faith on Prescription

Research suggests that faith is associated with longer life and a wide range of physical and mental health benefits.

(3.2 minutes)
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Joseph Tkach

Joseph Tkach has been president of Grace Communion International since 1995. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Azusa Pacific University. For more information about him, click here.

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Some atheists claim that belief in God is immature and subjective. They say that religion is for the hesitant, the guilt-ridden, the excessively timid and those lacking clear convictions with which to face life. Some of these atheists even see religion as a cause of mental and physical illness. But a recent study done by the British charity, Christian Medical Fellowship, known as the CMF, showed otherwise.

Drawing on evidence from more than 1200 studies and 400 reviews, this study showed that, far from being bad for health, being a practicing Christian can have significant benefits to both physical and mental well-being.

Moreover, evidence from these studies and reviews has shown an association between a life of faith and a number of positive health benefits, including: protection from illness; coping with illness, and faster recovery from it.

In fact, of all the studies reviewed, 81 percent showed benefit and only 4 percent showed harm. The 4 percent were among religions who refuse vaccination and blood transfusions.

So what particular health benefits were identified in the report? Here are a few:

  • Increased well-being, happiness and life satisfaction
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Less anxiety (and related illnesses)
  • Lower rates of alcohol and drug abuse
  • Better adaptation to bereavement

One study of 21,204 adults showed that those who attended church regularly had a life expectancy up to 14 years longer than those who did not.

The report goes on to suggest that modern doctors need to listen to their patients, “who typically are more religious than their carers [caregivers].” It suggests that doctors support spiritual care, because at a time of illness, spiritual issues often rise to the surface – questions of personal worth, mortality and place in the world – questions only faith can answer.

There are strong links between emotional and physical health.

Even though faith can have a very positive influence on health, we who believe in God and the Christian faith should not claim that our faith is a guarantee of good health and well-being. That is not always the case. The gospel is not a name it and claim it message about health and wealth. The gospel is about spiritual health and well-being.

We should not claim that belief in God is a guarantee of good health. But we can point out that the claim some atheists make about belief in God being bad for your health is simply not borne out by the facts.

The CMF report concluded that in contrast to the idea that the Christian faith is bad for your health, research suggests that faith is associated with longer life and a wide range of physical and mental health benefits.

I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of Life.

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