Believing In Miracles May Be Bad For Your Physical Health, Doctors Asked To Intervene

Believing in the power of a god may have mixed results when it comes to your health, suggests recent research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

Researchers studied data taken from a recent survey of nearly 3,000 Americans on their religious beliefs and health, the 2014 Landmark Spirituality and Health Survey conducted by the University of Michigan. While stronger religious belief — indicated by church attendance, praying often, and believing in miracles — was associated with greater life satisfaction, belief in miracles specifically was associated with poorer physical health. That’s largely because people who believed in miracles were more likely to assume their health was in a higher power’s hands rather than their own, the researchers additionally found.

“Religious beliefs emphasizing divine control over health outcomes may have negative consequences for health outcomes, although the same beliefs may contribute to a better sense of life satisfaction,” the researchers concluded.

Crosses Can believing in miracles actually be for your health? Pixabay, Public Domain

Far from maligning the role of religion in health, the authors noted that the belief of God’s power to heal medical illnesses can reduce “the stress associated with chronic health problems” and provide “a sense of hope and optimism for the future.” And for those terminally sick, a belief in miracles can mitigate the understandable feelings of fear and angst their illness brings on.

Rather than dissuade or argue with miracle-believers, the researchers suggest that doctors should engage them in a productive dialogue. For instance, doctors can make a difference by pointing out that the importance of working together with a higher power to heal their body, or encouraging them to better take care of their body as part of a “sacred duty.” Religious leaders can similarly encourage followers to think of mainstream medicine as a crucial part of health care alongside God’s miraculous powers.

It’s estimated that nearly 4 out of 5 Americans believe in miracles, even as younger individuals are now less likely to profess a belief in organized religion or regularly attend church.

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