Impact on Health

Impact on Health

There is increasing recognition that spirituality has significant impact on physical health because it is inextricably connected to lifestyle and behaviors. One study shows that direct medical care has only a 10% impact on an individual’s health, while lifestyle factors have a 50% influence (Lalonde, 1994).

In addition, there is also a growing body of evidence indicating that religious or spiritual practices, such as prayer or meditation, are associated with better health outcomes (Levin, 2001).


In a study at Duke University, patients who were being prayed for had significantly fewer complications and better recoveries than did those in the control group (Koenig, McCullough, and Larsen, 2001).


Many studies indicate that meditative practices demonstrate a positive impact on health, particularly in reducing stress and its damaging effects. Andrew Newberg, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, has captured images showing that brain activity changes during meditation. These images help explain how changes in the brain during meditation relate to positive changes in immune function, pulmonary function, blood pressure, and heart rate (Newberg, 2004).

The research of Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin Madison also demonstrates that meditators have more activity in the left prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is identified with increased well-being, and this effect lasts beyond meditation sessions. Davidson believes that meditation is a way to learn happiness and enjoy the health benefits that come with a positive mindframe (Horrigan, 2005).

Harvard professor Anne Harrington also argues that spirituality is important to health because:

  • It promotes a healthy lifestyle and provides good community
  • Contemplative practices reduce stress
  • Belief is a healing power (Harrington, 2004)

As the weight of evidence mounts, healthcare providers see an increasing need to acknowledge the relationship between spirituality and health.

See bibliography for references