03 September 2007

Faith Doesn't Make Your Heart Healthy

It has long been established that statistically, having someone else pray for you does nothing to improve your health. A new study looks at the benefits or lack thereof of religious belief to certain cardiac patients who are depressed or lack social support, and finds no benefit. According to the study's abstract:

Objective: To assess the prospective relationship between spiritual experiences and health in a sample of patients surviving an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) with depression or low social support.

Methods: A subset of 503 patients participating in the enhancing recovery in coronary heart disease (ENRICHD) trial completed a Daily Spiritual Experiences (DSE) questionnaire within 28 days from the time of their AMI. The questionnaire assessed three spirituality variables—worship service/church attendance, prayer/meditation, and total DSE score. Patients also completed the Beck Depression Inventory to assess depressive symptoms and the ENRICHD Social Support Inventory to determine perceived social support. The sample was subsequently followed prospectively every 6 months for an average of 18 months to assess all-cause mortality and recurrent AMI.

Results: Of the 503 participants who completed the DSE questionnaire at the time of index AMI, 61 (12%) participants either died or sustained a recurrent MI during the follow-up period. After adjustment for gender, education level, ethnicity, and a composite medical prognosis risk score derived specifically for the ENRICHD trial, we observed no relationship between death or nonfatal AMI and total spirituality as measured by the DSE (p = .446), worship service attendance (p = .120), or frequency of prayer/meditation (p = .679).

Conclusion: We found little evidence that self-reported spirituality, frequency of church attendance, or frequency of prayer is associated with cardiac morbidity or all-cause mortality post AMI in patients with depression and/or low perceived support.

Hat Tip to Science News.

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