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Australian study says religion can be good for your health

Today's West Australian reports on work being done in Australia that amplifies US research that associates greater participation in religious activities with better health.

The report is based on an article in the Medical Journal of Australia report that suggests people who have a strong faith smoke fewer cigarettes, have fewer sexually transmitted diseases, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and even a reduced risk of colon cancer.

They also have greater marriage stability, fewer alcohol and drug problems, lower suicide rates and less anxiety or depression.

Author Hedley Peach (pictured), from the Ballarat Health Services in Victoria, said Australians appeared to be less religious than Americans and more work was needed to better understand the relationship between spirituality and health among Australians.

His study compared and contrasted the associations of religion, spirituality and health in Australia and the US.

Belief in God stood at about 94% in the US but recent surveys had shown a gradual decline in both belief in God and a religious affiliation in Australia.

In the US, most in-patients have religious needs and a significant number of them would welcome doctors inquiring about spirituality.

Many US medical schools and some hospitals intern programs already included spiritual programs in their training.

"Although less religious, Australians may still hold religious beliefs," Professor Peach said.

"Research is required to better understand the spirituality of Australians, its relationship to health, and the benefit, cost and acceptability of doctors inquiring into patients spirituality as opposed to leaving it to clergy, spiritual advisers and counsellors.

The West Australian

Study says religious professionals live longer than others (5/8/02)
Ballarat Health Services
Medical Journal of Australia

20 Jan 2003