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ISRN Psychiatry
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 278730, 33 pages
Review Article

Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications

1Departments of Medicine and Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, P.O. Box 3400, Durham, NC 27705, USA
2Department of Medicine, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah 21413, Saudi Arabia

Received 25 September 2012; Accepted 15 October 2012

Academic Editors: S. M. Hyman and B. J. Mitterauer

Copyright © 2012 Harold G. Koenig. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper provides a concise but comprehensive review of research on religion/spirituality (R/S) and both mental health and physical health. It is based on a systematic review of original data-based quantitative research published in peer-reviewed journals between 1872 and 2010, including a few seminal articles published since 2010. First, I provide a brief historical background to set the stage. Then I review research on R/S and mental health, examining relationships with both positive and negative mental health outcomes, where positive outcomes include well-being, happiness, hope, optimism, and gratefulness, and negative outcomes involve depression, suicide, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, delinquency/crime, marital instability, and personality traits (positive and negative). I then explain how and why R/S might influence mental health. Next, I review research on R/S and health behaviors such as physical activity, cigarette smoking, diet, and sexual practices, followed by a review of relationships between R/S and heart disease, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, immune functions, endocrine functions, cancer, overall mortality, physical disability, pain, and somatic symptoms. I then present a theoretical model explaining how R/S might influence physical health. Finally, I discuss what health professionals should do in light of these research findings and make recommendations in this regard.