There are hundreds of studies that show a positive correlation between religious practice and improved health outcomes. Religion tends to promote a general lifestyle that fosters a better quality of life. Psychologist ME McCullough has studied psychology and the evolution of religion. He and his colleagues published a research review in 2000 showing a correlation between religiousness and lower mortality, reduced onset of physical and mental illness and enhanced recovery from illness.
Christian teaching urges Christians to care for their neighbours, forgive their enemies, to be grateful, to turn away from violence, help the poor, to be generous of heart, to respect life and the body, to honour parents and the elderly and to use our talents. In studies into happiness and inner-peace many of these same practices have been found to be significant factors in the more contented and fulfilled person. Studies have also shown the calming affects of prayer. That inner-faith or religious belief system has been shown to be at the heart of some of the more resilient people. It may be that it is harder to be terrified out of your skin when you believe that you are being looked after.
I have met many people who tell me that they can sense the presence of a deceased loved one and that this comforts them. They further explain that they have a belief in the next world and that life does not end in the grave. These beliefs give their life meaning. Those type of thoughts can only be comforting. Whatever you may think of such beliefs recent scientific studies have shown that they can help people through the inevitable challenges of life. It may not be a specific faith, the actual words you pray or who you are praying to but this religiousness or spirituality helps.
Scientific research on the health benefits of religiousness or spirituality is still in its infancy. The biggest challenge is separating them. In order to truly understand why people derive health benefits from prayer, researchers need to identify the unique markers that differentiate prayer from other non-spiritual practices. There may be dimensions to prayer that go beyond the reach of science. However, one thing that is undeniable is that prayer and religious practices are powerful resources
for coping with pain and illness and improving health and general wellbeing. Faith seems to offer people a meaning to life, a sense of journey and a feeling of belonging. Despite the centuries old conflict between religion and science research shows a little more compatibility between them when it comes to health and happiness.