NEW YORK (MainStreet) — More Americans are pursuing the power of prayer to deal with medical ailments, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.
Using an in-depth analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers from the APA concluded that prayer was being used not as alternative method of healing, but rather as a coping mechanism for health concerns. The study compared the CDC’s 2002 and 2007 National Health Interview Surveys, which included, respectively, 30,080 adults (over 18) from 44,540 households and 23,393 adults from 40,377 households.
The analysis found that the use of prayer to address health issues increased from 43% of respondents in 2002 to 49% in 2007. People who had a decline in health as well as those with improved health both reported praying more. The study did not address the particular faith of people who reported praying. It did, however, look at other demographic factors.
Women, African-Americans and the well-educated were most likely to pray about their health. The analysis found that 51% of women reported praying for their health in 2002 and 56% in 2007, in contrast with 34% and 40%, respectively, among men. Additionally, 61% of African-Americans reported having prayed in 2002 and 67% in 2007, compared to 40% and 45% for Caucasians during the same periods.
People who were married or had experienced a change in health for better or worse within the last 12 months were also more likely to turn to prayer in regards to their health concerns.
The APA said that its analysis did not indicate a spike in prayer as a response to the increase health insurance costs that many U.S. residents have experienced recently.
“We’re seeing a wide variety of prayer use among people with good income and access to medical care,” lead author Amy Wachholtz said in a press release. “People are not exchanging health insurance for prayer.”
Instead, the APA said the spike builds on an earlier increase in worship across multiple religious faiths immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks and stems for a individual penchant for prayer in times of stress and uncertainty.
“There is also a greater public awareness of Buddhist-based mindfulness practices that can include prayerful meditation, which individuals may also be using to address a variety of health concerns,” Wachholtz said.
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