Thursday, January 04, 2007


Put Your Hands on the Modem!

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a study of breast cancer patients and found that those who engaged in prayer activities did better psychologically.

Transcripts of online support group sessions for 97 breast cancer patients were analyzed, and researchers ... found an association between improved mental health and patients who used a higher percentage of words such as pray, worship, faith, holy, and God during those sessions.

(Interviews with the patients later on showed that those who use these words were engaging directly in prayer, not just sprinkling those words in their dialogues.)

... A text analysis program run on the session transcripts revealed that those who used more of the words suggestive of religious beliefs and practices had higher levels of functional well-being, lower levels of negative emotions and felt more strongly that they had control over their situation (or were experiencing self-efficacy).
The research was intended to investigate only the psychological mechanism behind prayer, not issues of divine intervention or physical health.

"We think the mechanisms of effect were trusting in God's plan for their life, in believing in an afterlife (reduced negative emotions), self-directing religious coping or presuming that God gives one the skills and resources they need to face their challenges (self-efficacy) and focusing on what's going well in their lives as a gift from God rather than what's not going well (functional well-being)," [Bret Shaw, lead author of the study] said.

"From a psychological standpoint alone, I think that prayer talk may well provide some stress relief that other forms of talk may not. For instance, believing in an afterlife in heaven would presumably reduce one's fear of death to some degree, which is precisely what we found," Shaw said. "Similarly, the idea of a divine power assisting one through an illness may well provide comfort and reduction of distress that one may not expect to find through other forms of talk or thought."
Shaw does not think that this is a placebo effect but a coping mechanism that helps people put a more positive spin on their fate and illness.

Can I have an "Aah-men"?

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