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J Athl Train. 2000 Apr-Jun; 35(2): 194–197.
PMCID: PMC1323417

The Effect of Spirituality on Health and Healing: A Critical Review for Athletic Trainers



To provide a comprehensive overview of the published literature regarding the effect of spirituality on health and healing.

Data Sources:

I searched MEDLINE from 1976 to 1999 using the terms “spirituality,” “religion,” “faith,” “healing,” and “health.”

Data Synthesis:

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.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (870K), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Waldfogel S. Spirituality in medicine. Prim Care. 1997 Dec;24(4):963–976. [PubMed]
  • Waldfogel S, Wolpe PR. Using awareness of religious factors to enhance interventions in consultation-liaison psychiatry. Hosp Community Psychiatry. 1993 May;44(5):473–477. [PubMed]
  • Levin JS, Vanderpool HY. Is religion therapeutically significant for hypertension? Soc Sci Med. 1989;29(1):69–78. [PubMed]
  • Comstock GW, Partridge KB. Church attendance and health. J Chronic Dis. 1972 Dec;25(12):665–672. [PubMed]
  • Zuckerman DM, Kasl SV, Ostfeld AM. Psychosocial predictors of mortality among the elderly poor. The role of religion, well-being, and social contacts. Am J Epidemiol. 1984 Mar;119(3):410–423. [PubMed]
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  • Levin JS, Vanderpool HY. Is frequent religious attendance really conducive to better health? Toward an epidemiology of religion. Soc Sci Med. 1987;24(7):589–600. [PubMed]
  • Oxman TE, Freeman DH, Jr, Manheimer ED. Lack of social participation or religious strength and comfort as risk factors for death after cardiac surgery in the elderly. Psychosom Med. 1995 Jan-Feb;57(1):5–15. [PubMed]
  • Pressman P, Lyons JS, Larson DB, Strain JJ. Religious belief, depression, and ambulation status in elderly women with broken hips. Am J Psychiatry. 1990 Jun;147(6):758–760. [PubMed]
  • Coward DD. Self-transcendence and emotional well-being in women with advanced breast cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum. 1991 Jul;18(5):857–863. [PubMed]
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  • Hudson T. Measuring the results of faith. Hosp Health Netw. 1996 Sep 20;70(18):22–28. [PubMed]
  • Byrd RC. Positive therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer in a coronary care unit population. South Med J. 1988 Jul;81(7):826–829. [PubMed]
  • McKee DD, Chappel JN. Spirituality and medical practice. J Fam Pract. 1992 Aug;35(2):201–208. [PubMed]
  • Kuhn CC. A spiritual inventory of the medically ill patient. Psychiatr Med. 1988;6(2):87–100. [PubMed]
  • King DE, Bushwick B. Beliefs and attitudes of hospital inpatients about faith healing and prayer. J Fam Pract. 1994 Oct;39(4):349–352. [PubMed]
  • Levin JS. Religion and health: is there an association, is it valid, and is it causal? Soc Sci Med. 1994 Jun;38(11):1475–1482. [PubMed]
  • Favazza AR. Modern Christian healing of mental illness. Am J Psychiatry. 1982 Jun;139(6):728–735. [PubMed]

Articles from Journal of Athletic Training are provided here courtesy of National Athletic Trainers Association