MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

I have often wondered why some, mostly US authors include prayer as an so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). According to this author, for instance, prayer therapy is professional quality therapy where a Christian counselor uses prayer intervention to bring healing to people’s  lives and core beliefs so that one can live out of a healthier identity and self-concept. Some studies even suggested that religious practices might be associated with longer survival, and it has been hypothesised that, for some, praying provides assurance with, in turn, affects a range of physiological variables.

However, whether religiosity influences survival among patients discharged from the hospital after an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) is unclear. This recent study examined the relationship between religious practices and 2-year all-cause mortality among survivors of an ACS.

Patients hospitalized for an ACS were recruited from 6 medical centers in Massachusetts and Georgia between 2011 and 2013. Study participants self-reported three items assessing religiosity: strength/comfort from religion, petition prayers for health, and awareness of intercessory prayers by others. All cause-mortality within 2-years of hospital discharge was ascertained by review of medical records at participating study hospitals and from death certificates. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate the multivariable adjusted risk of 2-year all-cause mortality.

Participants (n = 2,068) were on average 61 years old, 34% were women, and 81% were non-Hispanic White. Approximately 85% derived strength/comfort from religion, 61% prayed for their health, and 89% were aware of intercessions. In total, 6% of all patients died within 2 years post-discharge. After adjusting for sociodemographic variables, petition prayers were associated with an increased risk of 2-year all-cause mortality. With further adjustment for several clinical and psychosocial measures, this association was no longer statistically significant. Strength and comfort from religion and intercessory prayers were not significantly associated with mortality.

The authors concluded that most ACS survivors acknowledge deriving strength and comfort from religion, praying for their health, and intercessions made by others for their health. Although the reported religious practices were not associated with post-discharge survival after multivariable adjustment, acknowledging that patients utilize their religious beliefs and practices as strategies to improve their health would ensure a more holistic approach to patient management and promote cultural competence in healthcare.

On this blog, we had several previous posts on prayer; so, I do probably not need to repeat my stance on the issue:

Prayer as a therapy: a new randomised study

Prayer as a medical therapy? Time to stop this nonsense!

Daniel P Wirth, his dubious research, and the remarkable apathy of some medical journals

Is God an alternative to healthcare?

Personally, I don’t consider prayer as a therapy. Those who do, might now have to concede that yet another SCAM has been shown to have no positive effects on post-operative survival.

12 Responses to Does religiosity influence post-operative survival?

  • Quote: “(…) acknowledging that patients utilize their religious beliefs and practices as strategies to improve their health would ensure a more holistic approach to patient management and promote cultural competence in healthcare.“

    What kind of weird gibberish is this?! Let me suggest this conclusion instead:

    —————————
    Most patients hospitalized for an acute coronary syndrome feel some form of comfort from their religious beliefs. However, neither petition prayers nor intercessory prayers by others showed any positive effect regarding the mortality risk in the observation period.
    The results of this study therefore do not support the idea that a supernatural, benevolent and all-mighty being interested in the well-being of the believers exists.
    The results are, however, in complete agreement with the alternative hypothesis that such a supernatural being is simply a product of imagination and does not exist in reality.
    —————————

    Wouldn´t this be a more reasonable conclusion?!

  • One of the greatest achievements of our Western Civilization was the separation between religion and science.
    Even so, seems that at any given time there are people on both realms trying to mix it again.
    When it comes clear, as in this case, seems to be not such a great problem.
    But when it comes surreptitiously, as the way Fritjof Capra followers does, than we have a pathway to disaster.

  • I have often wondered why some, mostly US authors include prayer as an so-called alternative medicine
    Christian Science is a set of beliefs and practices belonging to the metaphysical family of new religious movements. It was developed in 19th-century New England by Mary Baker Eddy

    Clearly a “Buy American” approach to SCAM. Mind, with most illnesses in the middle 19th Century a placebo such as prayer may well have been superior to orthodox medical treatment.

  • It was till the 1930ties that the US administration considered
    Christian Science (prayer)
    Homeopathy
    and
    Osteopathy
    together as bogus therapies

    I have a document about that.

  • Ok, so my prayers for homeopathy have not worked out so far. For 5 years now I have gone through 100s of various beliefs one by one by praying to the relevant God to help homeopathy.
    After my long list of failures the last belief on the list is Atheism. It will be interesting praying to the God of this belief. I dont think that my prayers have so far been too dilute as they have been robust and evidence based. Just ask my neighbours.
    Which God though do you suggest for the God of Atheism? A living God eg Dawkins? Or er…. Ernst? Or a departed God eg Sagan, Feynman? Or maybe praying to nothing is best? Please advise.
    Thanks

    • @Dendra

      Characterizing atheism as a belief system is akin to characterizing not collecting coins as a hobby.

    • Was this supposed to be funny?!
      Well, here is my advice for you, Dendra:

      *First and foremost, you should stop smoking this stuff… it´s not healthy.

      *In the unexpected case that you were sober when you wrote this nonsense, I recommend that you should at least learn the very basic terms of a subject, before commenting on it.

      Here´s a clue for you:
      Theism=believe in the existence of one or more deities
      Atheism= absence of the belief in the existence of ANY deities

      Please think about this.
      (You are welcome)

  • That is your belief Frank.

    Anyway that then means that Atheists cannot be protected under the human rights act section 9 for their beliefs.
    So you can be discriminated against then for your beliefs or non beliefs?
    That doesn’t seem right to me.

    • @Dendra

      Belief does not require active introspection and circumspection (see Wikipedia definition of “belief”). If Human Rights Act section 9 doesn’t protect me from discrimination for things I’ve never even thought about then — not for the first time — the law is a rather poorly hewed weapon to form a basis for rational debate.

    • Non belief is also covered by Article 9.

      From the Equality and Human Rights Commission: Article 9: Freedom of thought, belief and religion

      Importantly, this right protects a wide range of non-religious beliefs including atheism, agnosticism, veganism and pacifism. For a belief to be protected under this article, it must be serious, concern important aspects of human life or behaviour, be sincerely held, and be worthy of respect in a democratic society.</blockquote?

  • I had some fun looking at the details of the study. So many confounding variables. There is nothing about how they decided how to make the two models. If I had to review the article, it would have been sent back with a list of suggestions on how to properly separate the effect by confounding factors from the variable under investigation. I think the only sensible conclusion for this study as is is that we cannot draw proper conclusions about the question asked.

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