Is disease associated with certain religions

Religion and Spirituality in the Elderly

Religion and spirituality are similar concepts but not the same. Religion is often viewed as more institutional and structured, and is believed to involve more traditional activities, rituals, and practices. Significantly, spirituality is intangible and immaterial and can thus be viewed as a more general term that is not associated with any particular group or organization. It can relate to feelings, thoughts, experiences and behaviors related to the soul or the search for the sacred.

Accountability and responsibility are part of traditional religion; Spirituality is less demanding. People can reject traditional religion but see themselves as spiritual. In the US> 90% of older people consider themselves religious or spiritual; around 6 to 10% are atheists and not looking for meaning through a religious or spiritual life. Most research approaches assess religion, not spirituality, using measures such as attendance at church services, the frequency of private religious practice, the use of religious coping mechanisms (e.g., praying, trusting in God, transferring problems to God, support through the church) and intrinsic religiosity (internalized religious creed).

For most of the elderly in the United States, religion is an important part of their lives, with around half attending church services at least once a week.

Religious participation is more pronounced among older people than in any other age group. For the elderly, the religious community is the greatest source of social support outside the family, and engagement with religious organizations is the most common type of volunteer social activity - it is more common than any combination of any other form of volunteer social activity.


Religion is correlated with improved physical and mental health, and religious people may suggest that God's intervention enables these benefits. However, experts cannot determine whether belonging to a religious community contributes to health or whether mentally or physically healthier people are attracted to religious groups. When religion is helpful, the reason for it, be it religious beliefs themselves or other factors, is not clear. Many such factors (e.g., psychological benefits, promotion of healthy behaviors, social support from the religious community) have been suggested.

Benefits for the psyche

Religion can provide the following benefits for the psyche:

  • A positive and hopeful attitude towards life and illness, which predicts an improved health situation and lower mortality rates

  • A sense of purpose in life that affects health-related behaviors and social and family relationships

  • A better ability to cope with illness and disability

Many older people report that religion is the main influencing factor for them to deal with physical health problems and the pressures of life (e.g. dwindling financial resources, loss of spouse or partner). In one study,> 90% of older patients relied, at least to some extent, on religion when coping with health problems and difficult social conditions. A hopeful, positive outlook about the future helps people with physical problems stay motivated for their recovery.

People with religious coping mechanisms tend to be less likely to develop depression and anxiety than those who do not; this inverse association is most pronounced in people with more physical disabilities. The perception of disability also seems to be changed by the degree of religiosity. Among older women with hip fractures, the most devout had the lowest rates of depression and were able to walk significantly further after discharge from the hospital than those who were less religious. Believers are also more likely to recover from depression more quickly.

Health promoting behaviors

In older people, active participation in a religious community correlates with better maintained physical functioning and health. Some religious groups (e.g. Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists) advocate health-promoting behaviors, such as avoiding tobacco and heavy alcohol consumption. Members of these groups are less likely to develop substance-associated diseases and live longer than the general population.

Social benefits

Religious beliefs and practices often encourage the development of social support networks within the community and beyond. Increased social contact increases the likelihood that older people will be diagnosed with disease early and comply with treatment regimen because members of their community interact with them and ask about their health and medical care. Older people who have such community networks are less prone to self-neglect.


Religious belief also benefits caregivers. In a study of caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's disease or end-stage cancer, caregivers with strong personal religious beliefs and high levels of social contact were better able to cope with the pressures of care over a 2-year period.

Harmful effects

Religion is not always beneficial to the elderly. Fostering religious devotion can encourage excessive guilt, lack of flexibility, and fear. Religious prejudices and delusions can develop in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or psychosis.

Certain religious groups prevent psychological and physical health measures, including possible life-saving therapies (e.g. blood transfusions, treatment of life-threatening infections, insulin therapy) and can replace these with religious rituals (e.g. praying, singing and lighting candles). Some more rigid religious groups can isolate and alienate older people from innocent family members and the wider social community.

The role of the health professional

Talking to elderly patients about their religious beliefs and practices will aid healthcare professionals in their care because those beliefs can affect patients' mental and physical health. Inquiring about religious matters while visiting a doctor is appropriate under certain circumstances, including the following:

  • When patients are seriously ill, under significant stress, or near death and ask or encourage a doctor to speak to them about religious issues

  • When patients tell a doctor that they are religious and that religion helps them deal with illness

  • When religious needs are evident and may have an impact on the patient's health or behavior

Older people often have different spiritual needs that can overlap; but these are not to be equated with psychological needs. Identifying a patient's spiritual needs can help mobilize the necessary resources (e.g. pastoral care or support groups, participation in religious activities, social contact with members of a religious community).

Spiritual history

A spiritual history recording shows older patients that the healthcare professional is ready to discuss spiritual issues. Practitioners may ask patients whether their spiritual beliefs are an important part of their lives, how these beliefs affect the way they care for themselves, whether they are part of a religious or spiritual community, and how the health care professional supports their spiritual Aims to handle needs.

Alternatively, a general practitioner may ask patients to describe their main coping mechanism. If the answer does not describe religious content, patients can be asked whether religious or spiritual resources are of any help. If the answer is no, patients can be sensitively asked about obstacles to these activities (e.g. transport problems, hearing loss, lack of financial resources, depression, lack of motivation, unresolved conflicts) in order to determine whether the circumstances or their free choice are the most important Represent reason. However, doctors should not impose or invade religious beliefs or opinions on patients if they do not want help.

Referral to the Church

Many Church members provide free home and hospital services to the elderly. Many elderly patients prefer such counseling to that of a psychologist because they are more satisfied with the results and because they believe that such counseling, unlike psychotherapy, is not stigmatized. However, many Church parishioners are unfamiliar with mental health counseling and may fail to recognize when elderly patients are in need of professional mental health care. In contrast, many hospital chaplains have extensive training in the psychological, social and spiritual needs of the elderly. Thus, involving hospital chaplains on the health team can be helpful. You can often bridge the gap between hospital care and community care by communicating with clergy in the community. If a patient z. For example, when discharged from hospital, the hospital chaplain can call the patient's chaplain so that support teams can be mobilized in the patient's religious community to assist during the patient's convalescence (e.g. by providing household help, meals, or transportation , by visiting the patient or his / her carer).

Supporting religious beliefs and practices of patients

Patients seek medical care for health rather than religious reasons. However, healthcare professionals should not interfere with the patient's religious engagement unless it interferes with necessary medical care because it can contribute to good health. People who are actively involved in religious groups, especially those with significant religious traditions, tend to be healthier.

If the patient is not already involved in religious activities, recommending such activities requires a sure instinct. However, healthcare professionals may suggest that patients consider religious activities if they appear susceptible to it and can benefit from activities that can create social contacts, reduce alienation and isolation, and increase a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose in life. These activities can also help older people focus on positive activities rather than their own problems. However, some activities are only suitable for more devout patients.

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