Spirituality and science have had a strained relationship in recent years as heated emotions continue to surround debates over creationism versus evolution and other subjects that pit faith against observation. A recent study, however, points out that there are things about which the scientific and spiritually minded can agree, among them: Faith can have the power to heal.
A study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry showed that belief in God can offer people “significant protection” against depression, which is slated to become the world’s most prevalent disease by 2030.
For the study, Harvard University researchers observed 159 mental-health patients at Massachusetts’s McLean Hospital for a year to investigate the relationship between religious belief, the patients’ expected health outcome and the actual outcome. The researchers asked each patient to rank belief in God on a scale of 1 to 5 and questioned about how positive they felt that medical treatment would help their depression symptoms. Seventy-one percent of the individuals registered at least slight belief in a higher being.
According to the researchers, the individuals who said they had “no” or only “slight” belief in God were twice as likely not to benefit from clinical treatment for depression symptoms.
Regardless of religious affiliation, however, a majority of patients with a “high” level of faith in God reported better treatment outcomes.
The researchers concluded: “Belief in God, but not religious affiliation, was associated with better treatment outcomes. With respect to depression, this relationship was mediated by belief in the credibility of treatment and expectations for treatment gains.”