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Health Behavior Change Faith and Health Behavior

As a clinician, have you ever considered how the patient’s condition or health status can be affected through a faith-based lens?

woman in black jacket sitting beside woman in white blazer
woman in black jacket sitting beside woman in white blazer

This time of year is special to millions of people throughout the world, as they draw nearer to their faith-based beliefs. Research indicates that religious faith has many positive effects on health behavior even though it’s uncommon to find clinicians and practitioners ever tapping into this hidden pot of patient gold! 

Saad and deMedeiros say that in most cases the benefit of religion to health can be likened to that achieved from the consumption of fruits and vegetables! In their review of the literature, they found the majority of this research to demonstrate that religious-spiritual well-being is directly and positively associated with improved parameters of physical and mental health, quality of life and longevity.(1)

Patient’s Religious Faith and Health Behavior

Take a look at the positive health habits of those who have a formal religious affiliation and service attendance (2):

        • Lower smoking rates
        • Reduced ETOH consumption
        • Lower blood pressure
        • Happiness in life 
        • Higher self-esteem
        • Lower anxiety level
        • Regulation of “how one feels”
        • More likely to get preventative care

One down-side in particular noted by the American Heart Association (AHA) was a higher level of obesity in the faithful possibly due to those wonderful pot-luck dinners! However, the AHA also stated that longer life due to less smoking was found this group! 

While not all religious aspects of life will be positive, it’s important to note that to many patients and their family’s faith does play a tremendous role in their lives and healthcare decisions.

Clinicians are responsible for using cultural competence in their practices. It is the responsibility of healthcare providers and organizations to deliver services that meet the cultural, social, and religious needs of patients and their families (3). Swihart, Yarrarapu, and Martin provide a very helpful, nuts and bolts laundry list of twenty-one religious faiths and their practices that could be very useful to clinicians as a quick reference guide. 

Sub-topics covered for each faith include:
        1. Beliefs 
        2. Death 
        3. Diet 
        4. Holy Tenets 
        5. Pregnancy 
        6. Symbols and Rites 
        7. Clinical Issues 

While tapping into the patient’s own motivation to change health behavior, keep in mind that faith and health behavior or “beliefs”, including one’s faith and its practices, play a tremendous role in why people do or don’t change!

(1) Saad, M. and deMedeiros (2021). Religion and health: most of times, an excellent combination. Retrieved Dec 20, 2021 from 10.31744/einstein_journal/2021CE6382. 

(2) Pappas,S. (Feb, 2012). 8 Ways religion impacts your life. Live Science. Retrieved Dec 21, 2021 from

(3) Swihart et al. (Aug, 2021). Cultural Religious Competence in Clinical Practice. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2021 at

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