A new study has found that religious and spiritual people who have a great deal of faith in God often say that they have the strength to carry on, the energy to perform daily tasks, and report fewer cancer symptoms, as well as fewer treatment symptoms.
But that’s only if they believed in a benevolent God that would help them through the experience.
If they believe that they’re suffering from cancer because their angry, vengeful God is punishing them for something that they did, they fare worse than non-religious patients.
Religious people who’ve embraced loving God find comfort in their beliefs, and cancer patients with strong ones reported feeling physically healthier and having a better mood than atheists or agnostics. They also experience little to no depression, anxiety or distress, and are a lot better at maintaining their relationships.
Dr. Heather Jim, lead author and expert from the Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa, Fla), gave a statement saying that “These relationships were particularly strong in patients who experienced greater emotional aspects of religion and spirituality”. These include a sense of meaning or purpose in life, and a link to “a source larger than oneself”.
She went on to add that some patients also struggle to give spiritual or religious meaning to the disease. She said this is a normal behavior for cancer patients and that their health is impacted by how they solve the struggle.
For the study, Dr. Jim and her team looked at a number of previously conducted studies with a total number of more than 44.000 patients.
They noticed that most cancer patients had some kind of religious or spiritual beliefs, and these beliefs affected both their physical and their mental health.
It’s important to note however that a patient’s religious behaviors, such as church attendance, meditation and prayer, did not have any kind of an impact on their mental or physical health.
On the other end of the equation, cancer patients who experienced a great deal of spiritual distress or had the feeling that they’re disconnected from God, were usually found to experience greater psychological distress and poorer emotional well-being.
The research team did admit that the long term effects religion has on a patient were inconclusive and that further research needs to be conducted.
The findings were published earlier today (August 10, 2015), in the medical journal Cancer.
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