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[IPr] We coulda told 'em that...

>From Yahoo Health Headlines, Aug 13, 2001
Monday August 13 11:07 AM ET 
Loss of Religious Faith May Increase Risk of Death
By Melissa Schorr

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - If religious faith can help the body fight off 
disease, as some believe, can loss of that faith leave one vulnerable to 
illness? Yes, according to researchers who found that sick patients who 
became pessimistic about their religious faith were associated with having a 
higher risk of mortality.

``We found that people who held these negative views on religion had an 
increased risk of mortality,'' study co-author Dr. Harold G. Koenig, an 
associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in 
Durham, North Carolina, told Reuters Health.

Feelings of doubt and anger towards one's faith are natural and normal when 
dealing with serious illness, Koenig said. ``But when people get stuck 
there,'' he noted, ``it creates stress...that interferes with body's ability 
to recover.''

Koenig and his co-author Dr. Kenneth I. Pargament, professor of psychology at 
Bowling Green State University in Ohio, questioned 596 patients over the age 
55 who had been hospitalized for various illnesses at Duke Hospital or the VA 
Medical Center in Durham between January 1996 and March 1997. The vast 
majority of the patients were of Christian faith.

The researchers questioned the patients about how they were using religion to 
cope with the stress of a medical illness. Negative religious feelings 
included feeling ``abandoned or punished by God'' or ``questioning God's 
love.'' The patients were followed for up to 2 years.

The results, published in the August 13/27 issue of the Archives of Internal 
Medicine (news - web sites), indicate that religious struggle was associated 
with an increased risk of mortality. Specifically, patients who said they 
felt ``unloved by God'' and ''attributed their illness to the devil'' were 
found to have a 19% to 28% increase in the risk of dying within 2 years.

The investigators controlled for other factors that could have influenced 
these results, such as depression, severity of illness, gender, age and 
quality of life. However, the findings could be explained by other factors, 
such as feelings of alienation arising from religious struggle, the 
researchers acknowledge.

Still, Koenig said, the research indicates the importance that medical 
professionals assess patients' religious feelings as part of providing 
thorough medical care.

``Sick people need to have their spiritual issues assessed and addressed, 
otherwise it will have a negative effect,'' Koenig said.

The study was funded by the Retirement Research Foundation in Chicago, 

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine 2001;161:1881-1885. 

Keep the faith everyone!
 - Gil Linkswiler
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