NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Mar 15 – Although previous studies have found that prayer, meditation and other religious activities provide health benefits, two American researchers suggest that many such findings are inaccurate and largely due to faulty study methods.
"There is little evidence to support claims that health benefits derive from religious activity," Professors Richard P. Sloan and Emilia Bagiella, both of Columbia University in New York City, write in the March issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Sloan and Bagiella first investigated the claim that there are numerous studies showing a positive effect of religious involvement on health and found this claim to be incorrect.
They searched 266 medical studies about religion that were published in 2000 and found that only 42 (17%) concluded that religious activity brought about health benefits. Other studies focused on topics such as differences between denominations, the impact of health conditions on religion, or physician behavior, but did not address the effect of religious activity on health.
The investigators next evaluated two comprehensive study reviews, both of which cited great support for the positive effect of religious activity on health, in order to determine the quality of the studies included. Focusing on those studies that examined the relationship between religious activity and heart disease or high blood pressure, the researchers analyzed the studies to determine if any of the results could be used as a basis to recommend that patients supplement their medical treatment with religious activities.