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To provide a comprehensive overview of the published literature regarding the effect of spirituality on health and healing.
I searched MEDLINE from 1976 to 1999 using the terms “spirituality,” “religion,” “faith,” “healing,” and “health.”
Strong scientific evidence suggests that individuals who regularly participate in spiritual worship services or related activities and who feel strongly that spirituality or the presence of a higher being or power are sources of strength and comfort to them are healthier and possess greater healing capabilities. Numerous research investigations have reported positive correlations between spirituality and decreased rates of stroke, cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, drug abuse, suicide, and general mortality. It has been suggested that faith is beneficial for health and healing because it helps people avoid unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and excessive drinking. However, studies designed to statistically control for such factors also report positive associations between spirituality and health in individuals with unhealthy behaviors.
The impact of spirituality on health and healing is a topic that has been virtually ignored in the disciplines of athletic training and sports medicine. Because of their lack of exposure to this topic, most athletic trainers are unaware of the many positive associations that exist between spirituality and health and healing. The available literature base regarding this topic is quite large; its findings need to be explored and integrated into our profession.