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Kenneth Cooper, author of its Better to Believe, says that having deep personal convictions and values can do wonders for almost every aspect of your physical and emotional well-being. He listed several specific enhancements to health that have been linked to firm, inner commitments to moral principles, social values, God, or even oneself.
Less Depression, Smoking, And Alcohol Abuse
In a study of more than five hundred African-American men conducted by Wayne State University in Detroit, significant correlation between the participants' religious involvement and their health. The researchers identified a number of indicators of true religious commitment, including overall religiosity and church attendance. They found these were linked to various beneficial health effects, such as less depression, little or no smoking, and infrequency of alcohol consumption.
(Source: November 1994 issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association)
Healthier Mothers And Babies
Maternity patients with a strong religious commitment, and their newborns, who were studied at the Department of Family Medicine, East Carolina University, had fewer medical complications than maternity patients without a religious affiliation.
(Source: November 1994 issue of Southern Medical Journal)
Protection From Colon And Rectal Cancer
In an Australian study of patients with cancer of the colon or rectum, 715 cancer patients were compared with 727 "controls" without cancer.
The researchers found that the respondents who saw themselves as most religious were less likely to have cancer than those who were not as religious. In other words, self-perceived "religiousness" was a statistically significant protective factor against the disease!
Another interesting finding in this study was that self-reported or perceived religiousness was associated with median survival times of sixty-two months. In contrast, those patients who reported themselves as "non-religious" had a median survival time of only fifty-two months.
(Source: November 1993 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine)
Improved Coping With Breast Cancer
A number of studies have associated a deep religious faith with an ability to cope more effectively with cancer, including breast cancer.
Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio published a study about the impact of deep faith on the condition of women with breast cancer. They found that with a group of Anglo-American patients, "intrinsic religiousness" was a strong predictor of spiritual well-being and hope- both of which are important factors for successfully coping with cancer.
(Source: Oncologocial Nurse's Forum, September 1993)
A Healthier Emotional Balance
A study at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, ranked participating young men and women as high, medium, or low in the quality of their personal religious commitment. Those in the high religious category, regardless of their religious denomination, scored highest for self-esteem, emotional maturity, and nondepression.
(Source: June 1993 issue of Psychological Reports)
Lower Blood Pressure, Healthier Cardiovascular System And Reduced Stress
A commitment to maintain significant social ties, including marriage and religious community involvements -and a willingness to act on such commitments-can have tremendous beneficial effects on health.
A study on this issue, involving more than 1,100 healthy men and women aged seventy to seventy-nine, was reported by Yale epidemiologist Lisa Berkman at a January 1995 meeting of the American Medical Association. She confirmed that strong emotional support and social ties can help lower blood pressure and enhance survival after a heart attack.
Berkman also found that significant social ties, including close friendships and family relationships, improved the levels in the brain of the chemicals norepinephrine and cortisol, which have been associated with excessive stress.
Stronger Marriage Ties
Religious compatibility between spouses at the time of marriage has a large influence on marital stability. A study, conducted by E. L. Lehrer and C. U Chiswick of the Economics Department of the University of Illinois at Chicago, also found that spouses of different faiths generally break up more often than those with a common faith.
(Source: August 1993 issue of the journal Demography)
A commitment to a meaningful marriage-rather than just cohabiting with a partner or remaining single-has also been linked in scientific studies to some specific health benefits. Researchers from the University of Chicago found that divorced men had twice the rate of alcohol abuse as married men. Divorced women also had more problems with alcohol than their married counterparts. Other researchers reported that those who live together before marriage have higher divorce rates, are more likely to be sexually disloyal, and are generally less happy than married couples.
(Source: Conferences of the Population Association of America, April 1995)
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