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      Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications

      1 , 2 , *

      ISRN Psychiatry

      International Scholarly Research Network

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          Abstract

          This paper provides a concise but comprehensive review of research on religion/spirituality (R/S) and both mental health and physical health. It is based on a systematic review of original data-based quantitative research published in peer-reviewed journals between 1872 and 2010, including a few seminal articles published since 2010. First, I provide a brief historical background to set the stage. Then I review research on R/S and mental health, examining relationships with both positive and negative mental health outcomes, where positive outcomes include well-being, happiness, hope, optimism, and gratefulness, and negative outcomes involve depression, suicide, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, delinquency/crime, marital instability, and personality traits (positive and negative). I then explain how and why R/S might influence mental health. Next, I review research on R/S and health behaviors such as physical activity, cigarette smoking, diet, and sexual practices, followed by a review of relationships between R/S and heart disease, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, immune functions, endocrine functions, cancer, overall mortality, physical disability, pain, and somatic symptoms. I then present a theoretical model explaining how R/S might influence physical health. Finally, I discuss what health professionals should do in light of these research findings and make recommendations in this regard.

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          Most cited references 530

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          This paper presents a general statistical methodology for the analysis of multivariate categorical data arising from observer reliability studies. The procedure essentially involves the construction of functions of the observed proportions which are directed at the extent to which the observers agree among themselves and the construction of test statistics for hypotheses involving these functions. Tests for interobserver bias are presented in terms of first-order marginal homogeneity and measures of interobserver agreement are developed as generalized kappa-type statistics. These procedures are illustrated with a clinical diagnosis example from the epidemiological literature.
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            Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators.

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              Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress.

              Numerous studies demonstrate links between chronic stress and indices of poor health, including risk factors for cardiovascular disease and poorer immune function. Nevertheless, the exact mechanisms of how stress gets "under the skin" remain elusive. We investigated the hypothesis that stress impacts health by modulating the rate of cellular aging. Here we provide evidence that psychological stress--both perceived stress and chronicity of stress--is significantly associated with higher oxidative stress, lower telomerase activity, and shorter telomere length, which are known determinants of cell senescence and longevity, in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy premenopausal women. Women with the highest levels of perceived stress have telomeres shorter on average by the equivalent of at least one decade of additional aging compared to low stress women. These findings have implications for understanding how, at the cellular level, stress may promote earlier onset of age-related diseases.
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                Author and article information

                Affiliations
                1Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, P.O. Box 3400, Durham, NC 27705, USA
                2Department of Medicine, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah 21413, Saudi Arabia
                Author notes

                Academic Editors: S. M. Hyman and B. J. Mitterauer

                Journal
                ISRN Psychiatry
                ISRN Psychiatry
                ISRN.PSYCHIATRY
                ISRN Psychiatry
                International Scholarly Research Network
                2090-7966
                2012
                16 December 2012
                : 2012
                23762764 3671693 10.5402/2012/278730
                Copyright © 2012 Harold G. Koenig.

                This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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