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Belief in Deities May Not Help Make You Healthier

Started by Recusant, December 01, 2022, 04:47:02 PM

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Recusant

I've got used to seeing articles like "Science Says: Religion Is Good For Your Health". It is a recurring trope, one that I did not find particularly disconcerting. I could see how being able to just put things in "the hands of God" might allow for a more optimistic outlook, which in turn can affect the outcome in a medical setting. I'm not sure this study entirely debunks these claims, being based on self-reporting as it is, but it does present a counter-perspective.

"New research finds that atheists are just as healthy as the religious" | PsyPost

QuoteAtheists and agnostics tend to be just a healthy and satisfied with life as their religious counterparts, according to new research published in Journal of Religion and Health. The findings cast doubts on the theory that religion and spirituality enhance personal wellbeing.

Study author David Speed sought to test the belief-as-benefit effect, which describes a broad pattern of findings where religious beliefs and behaviors are positively associated with health outcomes. Much of this research has failed to include non-believers.

"There is an enormous literature addressing religion and health, there are literally 10,000s of article connecting belief, religious attendance, prayer, religiosity, etc. with a variety of health outcomes," explained Speed, an associate professor at the University of New Brunswick. "However, there is a shortage of research addressing atheists, despite this population consisting of millions of Americans and Canadians."

Speed used data from Canada's General Social Survey to examine whether religion predicted physical and/or psychological wellness in a representative sample of Canadians. The survey collected data regarding religious identity, religious attendance, prayer frequency, and religiosity ("How important are your religious or spiritual beliefs to the way you live your life?"). The survey also included assessments of self-rated stress, self-rated physical health, life satisfaction, and self-rated mental health.

[. . .]

The sample included 455 atheists, 215 agnostics, 2,080 individuals who identified as "nonreligious," 6,205 Catholics, 5,685 Protestants, 595 Eastern Religion practitioners, and 430 who identified their religious beliefs as "other."

After controlling for sex, age, household income, marital status, language, minority status, education level, and geographic region, Speed failed to find any evidence that religious believers had better levels of stress, physical health, life satisfaction or mental health compared to non-believers. Additionally, religious attendance, prayer, and religiosity were generally unrelated to all four outcomes.

"The average person should be skeptical of claims that religion is inherently healthy or inherently health-promoting," Speed told PsyPost. "While some religious people are undoubtedly healthy, the same can be said of some nonreligious people. Whatever advantages to life religion may (or may not offer), health simply isn't one of them."

[Continues . . .]

The paper is behind a paywall.

QuoteAbstract:

The belief-as-benefit effect (BABE) is a broad term for the positive association between religion/spirituality (R/S) and health outcomes. Functionally, religious variables and religious identities predict greater wellness, which implies that atheists should report worse health relative to religious groups.

Using Cycle 29 of the cross-sectional General Social Survey from Statistics Canada (N > 15,900), I explored health differences in stress, life satisfaction, subjective physical wellbeing, and subjective mental wellbeing across R/S identities (atheists, agnostics, Nones, Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Religions). Results indicated that (1). religious attendance, prayer, and religiosity were generally unrelated to all health outcomes for all R/S identities, (2). averagely religious atheists reported health parity with averagely religious members of all other R/S identities, and (3). when comparing a maximally nonreligious atheist group against several maximally religiously affiliated groups, atheists largely showed health parity. If both low R/S and high R/S are associated with comparable wellness, researchers should actively question whether R/S is genuinely salutary.
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Dark Lightning

"Averagely religious atheists"?  :???:  I'd've thought that at least, in the US, (I see this was in Canada) the religious would be slightly less healthy on average because of the anti-vax sentiment, but maybe that just gets so much advertising in the media that my sense of it could be skewed a little.

No one

Belief in wish granting magic sky pixies has absolutely zero value in a modern civilization.

Icarus

The anti vax proposition almost certainly caused some deeply religious people to die. Lots of those deniers of reality also refused to wear masks. Sort of a daily double of naivety.

Belonging to a church is a social exercise as well as a religious one. A harmonious social environment is comforting. That could be a positive influence on ones emotional health.

Meanwhile, the participants in the Hellfire and brimstone churches are fully aware and regularly reminded that they are sinners. "The wages of sin is death": and all that jazz.  The sinners may very well be condemned when they arrive at their judgement day trial. That is disquieting enough to make the true believer anxious. Constant anxiety is a disorder that can cause sufficient physical distress to make lives sicker and shorter.

......never mind I am merely spitballing here.   

Recusant

Quote from: Dark Lightning on December 01, 2022, 05:23:42 PM"Averagely religious atheists"?  :???:  I'd've thought that at least, in the US, (I see this was in Canada) the religious would be slightly less healthy on average because of the anti-vax sentiment, but maybe that just gets so much advertising in the media that my sense of it could be skewed a little.

Heh, that made me pause for a moment too. I suppose it is Dr. Speed's shorthand for somebody who describes themself as an atheist as opposed to somebody who does not believe in deities but does not describe themself as an atheist. Of course some of them are in fact "atheister than thou" so to speak.  :snicker1:

Dr. Speed's "basic research interest is addressing the health of the irreligious [source]" so one would hope that he is conversant with contemporary atheism.
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Recusant

Quote from: Icarus on December 01, 2022, 11:12:15 PMThe anti vax proposition almost certainly caused some deeply religious people to die. Lots of those deniers of reality also refused to wear masks. Sort of a daily double of naivety.

Belonging to a church is a social exercise as well as a religious one. A harmonious social environment is comforting. That could be a positive influence on ones emotional health.

Meanwhile, the participants in the Hellfire and brimstone churches are fully aware and regularly reminded that they are sinners. "The wages of sin is death": and all that jazz.  The sinners may very well be condemned when they arrive at their judgement day trial. That is disquieting enough to make the true believer anxious. Constant anxiety is a disorder that can cause sufficient physical distress to make lives sicker and shorter.

......never mind I am merely spitballing here. 

Excellent observations, Icarus. We've seen both types come through here--those who found the community offered by a church rather salutary (Waski_the_Squirrel comes to mind among others) and those who found the prospect of eternal damnation rather unsettling.
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken