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Spiritual Beliefs Part of Health Care for Some
Date:9/11/2008

een for vision problems related to diabetes, 15 percent for vein blockages, and the rest were being seen for other eye problems, such as macular degeneration.

Sixty percent were moderately or very worried about their eye problem, and one-third had poor vision in at least one eye.

Seventy-seven percent identified themselves as Christian, while 6 percent were Jewish. Three percent said they were agnostic. Forty-five percent attended weekly religious services, according to the study.

Few -- just 2.4 percent -- believed that God caused their illness. Almost 70 percent felt that God gave them strength to help them be "at peace" with their declining vision.

So, when doctors are actually trained to ask questions about spirituality, what can they do with this information? Magyar-Russell said that if their patients are using religion in a positive way, such as turning to God for support, then doctors can just listen and be supportive. But, if they hear that their patients feel that God is punishing them somehow or they feel abandoned by God, then the physician could refer them to a hospital chaplain or ask them if they have a pastor or priest that they could talk to about these feelings.

"When people are having religious struggles, they die more quickly and are in worse physical health," said Koenig. "When people use religion to help them cope in a positive way, it reduces stress and can affect health in a positive way.

Both Koenig and Magyar-Russell said more physicians need to be trained in giving a proper spiritual evaluation.

"Less than 10 percent of doctors do this in an regular way, even with dying patients, and that's because most haven't been trained," Koenig said.

More information

To learn more about how spirituality might affect your health and why it's important for your doctor to know your feelings, visit the

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