This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

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Role of Religion on Health

Dr Raveesh B N

Introduction

Science deals with facts of the existing universe. Philosophy concerns itself with finding the theory to fit that 'fact as to its origin, maintenance and disposal. As this is a highly abstruse subject, a large number of theories have been propounded, giving rise to large number of philosophies in all the religion and all the countries of the world (Burnouf, 1988).

Religion teaches the art of living and the wise use of the resources. Science and religion thus serve different needs of man and as such they are complementary and not contradictory. Man needs both science & religion and they need each other. Both science and religion are engaged in finding happiness for man, whereas science is finding happiness of the body the outer vesture of man, which is naturally short-lived (Jackson, 1974).

Evidence on Religion - Health: Popular claims that religious activity provides health benefits have virtually no grounding in the medical literature. This conclusion sharply contradicts assertions that of a large body of evidence that indicates that religious people enjoy better physical and mental health (Walter, 1959). Belief in the health benefits of religious and spiritual activities is so widespread that many think these activities should be incorporated into clinical practice. The evidence claimed to link religious practice to better health withstands close scrutiny.

Does Religion Improve the Health? A loving relationship with God may be a key to enjoying better health. According to a new clinical study, people who strongly affirm that they love God and feel loved by God or a higher power score higher on measure of overall issue. Loving God is a strong and significant factor determining perceptions of health, even after controlling for other social, psychological and disease - related factor’s known to affect how people rate their health. Men and women who practice any of the mainstream faiths have above average longevity, fever strokes, less heart diseases, less clinical depression, better immune system function, lower blood pressure and fewer anxiety attacks, and they are much less likely to commit suicide than the general population (Levin, 1996).

Clinical Relevance: There is a strong protective relation between increased religious commitments and lower suicide rates. Frequent church attendants are 4 times less likely to commit suicide than non-church attendees are. Drug use - meaningfulness of religion membership of a religion, sense of belonging, commitment and participation in positive programs, religious upbringings have been found to build a resistance to the use of illicit drugs by many who have never taken such drugs. These are all cohesive elements that occur in such settings that benefit participants (Marwick, 1995).

Religion and Mental Health: Mental illness may present with statements of regret for transgressing religious norms, but more commonly there is a religious slant to the beliefs present in psychotic illness. Religion can be used adaptively or mal-adaptively and can have a positive or negative impact. Sharing religion with others of the same ideology secures a supportive culture in which one feels understood and accepted. Religion is multidimensional and social support is one valuable aspect of it (Robert, 1983).

Review of Literature

William Osler had conducted a study on Americans by their own admission, religious over 25% report believing in God, while more than 70% consider faith and prayer important elements in health care. One study even reports that almost half the patients in hospitals would like their doctors to pray with them. Herold Koeing of Duke University medical Center (2004): Reviewed some 1,100 health effects studies involving religious practice and found that most show statistically, significant relationships between worship-service attendance and improved health (Marwick, 1995).

Dr. Levin states that, "there is great potential for classical sources of human strength and healing. A loving relationship with God is held to be an especially potent source of wall-being according to many of the world's faiths". Religious Research Association conducted the Survey. It show that loving God is a strong and significant factor determining perceptions of health, even after controlling for other social, psychological and diseases related factor’s known to affect how people rate their health (Levin, 1996).

Importance of the Study

India is definitely a religious country. India has a long history of religious civilization. Religion and spirituality are interrelated and have its effect on health. Medical interest is also shown in present years about religion influence on the human attitude. This study influences modern health policies. Illness partly is related with religion. Every man practices one religion. Every religion has its own beliefs and customs. The researcher has given suggestions to implement health policies and maintain good health situation.

Aim of the Study

To find out the religious beliefs in patients and to asses the requirements of religious belief in the process of treatment.

Methodology

Design

A simple cross-sectional experimental study on inpatients in a mutispeciality hospital

Details about the place of the study

The present study has been carried out in the J.S.S. Hospital, Ramanuja Road, Mysore.It is the part of J.S.S. Mahavidyapeeth group of institution and is one of the biggest hospitals in Mysore City.

Sampling Method and Subjects for the Study

A total of 75 inpatients from Medical, Surgical and Gynaecology ward were taken up for study. Subjects were taken on a single day and unit basis, who had no cognitive disturbance (screening with mini mental status examination was done) and who were comfortable in completing the self-rating scale.

Tool used in the study

A modified self rating Five-point Likert scale on religious attitude was used, making it more suitable for hospital inmates to that of original questionnaire for general public. Split-half reliability Coefficients using Spearman Brown’s correction formula was found to be .87 for odd-even items and .89 for the first and second halves. Face validity and validation by expert ratings have been established. Scores on 200 subjects available for this religious attitude questionnaire (Banerjee, 1962).

Method of Data Collection

The author personally collected data from the in-patients who consented to participate in the study.

Results

Sl.

No

Question

Strongly Agree

Agree

Un-decided

Disagree

Strongly Disagree

1

Religious faith alone leads man to right path.

12

61

0

2

0

2

Religion alone helps man to control his animality.

10

64

0

0

1

3

Faith in religion makes man accept factual truth and scientific.

1

66

5

2

1

4

Religion alone makes man tolerant and his life decent

2

68

0

3

2

5

Religion alone helps man keep himself under restraint.

2

19

0

40

15

6

Faith in religion is absolutely obsolete under restraint.

1

25

4

44

1

7

Faith in religion makes man averse to domestic duties.

1

13

0

56

5

8

Faith in religion makes man philanthropic.

3

58

8

6

0

9

Religion alone can give man what science can never give.

1

37

14

18

5

10

Religion faith cripples man's power of freethinking.

3

40

4

26

2

11

There is no way out than to take shelter in religion in order to enjoy the guest of life.

29

44

0

1

1

12

Faith in religion makes man cowardly.

1

7

1

39

27

13

Faith in religion is a superstition.

0

15

5

46

9

14

Religion alone shows us the path to lead a healthy life individually as well as socially.

5

62

2

6

0

15

Religion alone is capable of inspiring the mind the midst of frustration and basement.

5

60

4

6

0

16

Religious faith takes man away from the reality.

0

22

11

38

4

17

Religion has no room for developing a better society.

44

28

1

2

0

18

It is very difficult for a God fearing man to accept scientific truths.

0

17

5

48

5

19

Religious faith dwarfs the freethinking of man.

1

23

1

47

3

20

Religion faith testifies the religious backwardness.

1

15

3

48

8

21

Power of prayer in healing.

2

68

2

1

2

22

Physician should also pray to heal.

0

65

10

0

0

23

Relation between religion and health.

1

48

19

5

2

24

Faith healers can make people well.

0

35

7

23

10

25

God is involved in illness.

0

35

15

15

10

Almost all (nearly 97%) respondents were of the opinion that religious faith leads man in a right path. Seventy nine percent of respondents agree that religion alone can help man to control his animality. More than three fourth of the respondents agreed with faith in religion makes man accept factual truth and scientific facts and also religion alone makes man tolerant.

Sixty percent of respondents disagree with faith in religion is absolutely under restraint and similar number disagree with faith in religion making man averse to domestic duties. More than half of respondents agree that religion alone can give man what science can never give. However, half of the respondents felt that religious faith cripples man's power of freethinking.

Majority of the respondents agreed that there is no way out than to take in religion in order to enjoy the guest of life. Except for the one fourth of the subjects, the respondents disagreed that faith in religion is a superstition and they also felt that religion alone showing the path to lead a healthy life individually as well as socially. They go on to say that religious faith does not take man away from the reality. In fact, Ninety six percent of respondents disagree with the idea of religion having no room for development in to a better society.

Seventy percent of the respondents never felt it as difficult for a God fearing man to accept scientific truths. Less than half of the subjects had the feeling that God is involved in their illness, but Sixty five percent of respondents felt religion and health interrelated. Majorities of the (93%) respondents agree with power of prayer in leading healthy life and that their physicians should also pray with them in the process of healing from ill health.

Discussion

Religion is the art of living; through right action, how to live our daily life in harmony within ourselves and with others and to lead a life of peace and happiness (Jale, 1962). Hence this statement is proved in this research result and 96% of the respondents are of this opinion. Religion teaches how to live our family life in practical manner. Religion is one of the social controls; this statement is proved through conducted research, 33% of the respondent agree with religion alone helps man to control his animality. A loving relationship with God may be a key to enjoying better health (Phalajani, 1985). This statement is proved in research that 46% of respondent agree God involved in illness. Peoples perception of God may differ in different places, but as today's researcher seek to find wherever common ground or ideas that will unite people of all cultures. The same way gross anatomy has the same concept almost about everywhere in the world (Robert, 1872). Sixty five percent found a positive relationship between religion and health.

Limitation

The current study has its limitations as it was conducted on a relatively small sample. Statistical description with correlation on other variables like socio-economic state and kind of diseases may throw more light on this vital issue in health care. A comparative study may be even more beneficial. There are many problems with studying this issue. One problem is how to define or measure religious behavior. A second problem is to factor out all the socioeconomic variables contained and finding of any association. A third problem is to explain why religion shows both benefit and harm. Why religion would have a positive association with some diagnoses and a negative association with others needs to be identified.

Conclusions

Man is a social animal. Everyone need others relationships to fulfill their desires. In the society many things control human beings. Religion is also a social control factor. Religion helps one lead a healthy life individually as well as socially. No one is arguing that having a religious belief that encourages healthy habits provides a social network, and possibly a form of comfort to be healthy. This conclusion asserts that a large body of evidence indicates that religious people enjoy better physical and mental health. Belief in the health benefits of religious and spiritual activities are so widespread that, many think these activities are needed to be incorporated in modern clinical practice.

Refrences

Banerji D (1962). Development scales for measuring attitude towards government, morality, religion and society. Indian Journal of Psychology. 37(3), 137-142.

Burnouf E (1988), The Science of Religion, First Edition, Printed by Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey and Co.37 - 69.

Jackson MJ (1974), Sociology & Religion (Theory & Practice), Published by B.T. Batsford Ltd., London & Sydney, 60 - 66.

Jale J (1962), What Religion is? (In the words Swami Vivekananda) First Publish by Phoenix House Ltd., London, 123 - 160.

Levin JS (1996). How Religion Influences Morbidity and Health: Reflections on Natural History, Salutogenesis, and Host Resistance.Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 43 (5), 849-864,

Marwick, C (1995) Should Physicians Prescribe Prayer for Health? Spiritual Aspects of well-being Considered, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 273(20), 1561-1562,

Pahalajani TB (1985), What is Religion (Foreword by Swami Chinmayananda) Second Revised Edition, Bharathiya Vidyabavan, Bombay, 1 - 6.

Robert B (1972), Religion Origins & Ideas, Second Edition, Printed in Great Britain by Hazall Watson & Vinery Ltd., 10 - 17.

Robert D. B (1983), Religion in Modern India, Second Revised Edition, Published by Ramesh Jain Manohar Publication, New Delhi, 221 - 233.

Walter HC (1959).The Psychology of Religion, An Introduction to Religious Experience and Behaviour, Second Printing, by the Macmillan Company, New York, P-P: 3-17.