A review on several previous studies found that religious people are less affected by cancer’s symptoms, have fewer side effects when on treatment, and display a greater social connectivity.
The revised studies involved more than 40,000 cancer patients that had reported being either religious or spiritual. But one of the studies’ lead author Heather Jim explained that not being religious does not mean that the objective outcomes of a cancer diagnosis may be negative. Ms. Jim noted that several studies took into account only patients’ reports on their health status rather than observing medical records.
But in 32,000 cancer cases, higher religious scores were also tied to better overall health outcomes. A sense of connection with a Person that is higher than themselves helped cancer patients have fewer cancer-related symptoms, patient reports show. They were also in a better physical and mental shape, studies suggest.
Additionally, religious cancer patients displayed a better physical health than their peers that were depressed over the diagnosis or were angry towards God. That may also have something to do with the fact spiritual people keep away from substance abuse and have healthier behaviors than their less spiritual peers. Plus, religious communities are more supportive towards their members granting the latter a sense of belonging and trust.
Additionally, religious beliefs encourage love and forgiveness and reduce stress on the long run. Yet, those that weren’t actively engaged in a form of spirituality had a higher risk of depression and were more likely to not follow their doctors’ recommendations during treatment.
Some sub-review of the studies which involved 14,000 cancer patients found a link between religious beliefs and improved health at societal level, better interconnectivity between the members of society, and clearer roles in that community.
The positive social outcomes linked to spirituality were still consistent after they were adjusted for several factors such as gender, race, or age. Wake Forest School of Medicine’s John M. Salsman co-author of the recent review explained that religious beliefs stress the importance of being part for a group and community and get involved. That may be why religious communities reported better overall health outcomes.
Dr. Salsman and his fellow researchers also found that deeply religious patients were more enjoyable to be around. Plus, they often didn’t complain about the pain or symptoms even in the midst of most invasive procedures.
Dr. Jim also said that health care providers should take into consideration that their less religious cancer patients may benefit emotionally from talking to a chaplain or another spiritual leader of their community.
Image Source: Spirituality and the Brain