Religion and health

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Religion and health is a popular field of study within health psychology and has been extensively studied [1]. Much of the literature has supported the idea that religion and spirituality are positively associated with a variety of health outcomes [2].

"Across the majority of [139 academic studies], the data show a positive correlation between religion and well-being. [...] Social religious participation evidenced the strongest positive correlation across all measures of well-being. [...] Higher levels of involvement in religion are more beneficial to mental health overall.[3]"

While this is true in a technical sense, emphasis on these findings tends to gloss over the lack of supporting evidence that being non-religious, non-spiritual, or an atheist is generally not associated with being less healthy. In other words, the idea that "more religious stuff = good health" has only been demonstrated to be true provided a person is religious or believes in god(s). This is kind of like saying, "People who go to McDonald's tend to be happier than people who do not go to McDonald's - provided the people who are going to McDonald's actually like McDonald's". While it may be true, it is not a compelling argument that going to McDonald's is necessarily associated with happiness.

Unfortunately, the existing research on the topic largely fails to investigate whether "religious stuff" is necessarily good for non-believers. Unfortunately, the relationship between atheism and health is poorly understood, despite several academics within the field making calls for an intensive study on the topic [4]. However, this lack of research has not stopped some psychologists from suggesting that religion and spirituality should be factored into clinical settings[5].



  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. Theos, Religion and Well-being: Assessing the Evidence, 2016
  4. Whitley, R. (2010). Atheism and mental health. Harvard Review Of Psychiatry, 18, 190-194. doi:10.3109/10673221003747674
  5. [3]

See also

Spirituality and health

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