Self-Reported Health, and Illness and the Use of Conventional and Unconventional Medicine and Mind/Body Healing by Christian Scientists and Others

Authors
Herbert Benson, M.D., Jeffery A. Dusek
Publication
The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease
187(9):p. 539-548
Abstract

A cross-sectional national telephone survey was used to determine whether Christian Scientists (N = 230), a religious group that uses mind/body (including spiritual) healing, self-report more or less illness than non-Christian Scientists (N = 589). The primary outcome measure was the proportion of Christian Scientists and non-Christian Scientists that, during the previous 12 months: a) experienced any of 13 common medical conditions or symptoms; and b) used conventional medicine, unconventional medicine, and mind/body (including spiritual) healing. Fewer Christian Scientists experienced an illness or symptom than non-Christian Scientists (73% vs. 80%, respectively, p = .05). A multivariate analysis showed that Christian Scientists were less likely to have experienced illness than non-Christian Scientists (odds ratio [OR] .66, 95% confidence interval [CI] .44 to .99, p = .04). Similar proportions of Christian Scientists and non-Christian Scientists used some type of conventional medicine (74% vs. 78%, respectively), although Christian Scientists were less likely to take prescription medications than non-Christian Scientists (p = .034). Although use of unconventional medicine was similar in both groups (52% vs. 45%), more Christian Scientists than non-Christian Scientists used at least one type of mind/body medicine (67% vs. 42% p < .00001), notably special religious services and spiritual healing. Additional studies are needed to determine whether there are health benefits associated with the use of conventional and unconventional medicine in combination with mind/body (including spiritual) healing.

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