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:
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.