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"Did You Know That More Americans Pray Than Have Sex?"

Posted By jessicaprol On December 8, 2008 @ 10:51 am In Ongoing Priorities | Comments Disabled

Dr. David R. Williams, Professor of Public Health and Sociology at Harvard, used this anecdote/data point to demonstrate exactly how religious the American public actually is.

Data in the 2007 Gallup polls further supports this point: 93% of Americans believe in God, or a higher power. 61% say they are members of a church or synagogue and 82% said their faith was very or fairly important to them. [1]

With an American public that’s this religious, it’s important to know how religion affects our social welfare. Here in Washington, policy folks spend a lot of time thinking about demographic characteristics like socio-economic status and gender and we care how those shape individual character and communities. We assume that we should understand how these factors relate to social welfare outcomes and that a better understanding will improve our public policy and quality of life.

But not as much time and attention has gone to considering religion as a factor influencing social welfare.

And that’s why our recent conference about religious practice and health [2] was so groundbreaking. The Heritage Foundation partnered with Child Trends and the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion for a day-long event featuring research from over a dozen of the nation’s top researchers on religion and health [3].

Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University’s Center for the Study of Religion, Spirituality and Health kicked off the conference by summarizing findings from a growing body of research on religion and health. As many as 3,000 quantitative studies have now examined relationships between religion/spirituality and health (mental and physical), the majority reporting positive findings.

What do they find?

  • Religious involvement predicts lower rates of alcohol and drug use, particularly in high school students, college students, and young adults.
  • Religious activity predicts slower progression of cognitive impairment with aging.
  • Religious involvement is associated with lower rates of medical service use, including both acute hospitalization and long-term care.

Why does this matter for public policy? “There are numerous direct public health and clinical applications for [this research] that have nothing to do with prescribing religion…or over-stepping the bounds of church-state separation that the 1st Amendment guarantees,” Dr. Koenig suggested. His presentation outlined a few of the implications for improving public health, promoting community resiliency, and lightening the ever-increasing economic burden of providing health care and protecting our population. Other interesting paper topics included:

  • Neal Krause, University of Michigan, on gratitude as a buffer against stress from financial difficulties
  • Gail Ironson, University of Miami, on religious practices, beliefs, and health among people with HIV

The conference Webcast can be viewed and papers can be downloaded for free [4].


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2008/12/08/did-you-know-that-more-americans-pray-than-have-sex/

URLs in this post:

[1] Data in the 2007 Gallup polls further supports this point: 93% of Americans believe in God, or a higher power. 61% say they are members of a church or synagogue and 82% said their faith was very or fairly important to them. : http://www.gallup.com/poll/1690/Religion.aspx

[2] religious practice and health: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Features/ReligiousPracticeInAmerica/home.cfm?CFID=46844036&CFTOKEN=95738261

[3] nation’s top researchers on religion and health: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Features/ReligiousPracticeInAmerica/agenda.cfm

[4] downloaded for free: http://www.vodium.com/goto/portal/heritage2008_1203/archive.html

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