Original Paper

Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 283-295

Prayer and Spiritual Practices for Health Reasons among American Adults: The Role of Race and Ethnicity

  • Frank GillumAffiliated withCollege of Medicine, Howard University Email author 
  • , Derek M. GriffithAffiliated withCenter for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health, University of Michigan School of Public Health

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Many studies find racial differences in prayer and religious practices, but few reports examine factors that help explain the effects of Hispanic ethnicity or African American race. A national survey conducted in 2002 collected data on 10 non-religious spiritual practices as well as on prayer for health reasons in 22,929 adults aged 18 years and over. We found marked racial and ethnic differences in the use of prayer and other spiritual practices for health reasons. Greater proportions of African Americans and Hispanic Americans than European Americans reported prayer for health reasons. Sociodemographic variables and health status could not explain these differences. Further, among those who reported prayer, African Americans were more likely than European Americans to report being prayed for by others. However, African American women and Hispanic women and men were significantly less likely than European Americans to use other spiritual practices such as meditation and Tai Chi. Surprisingly African American men were just as likely to report these practices as European American men. Sociodemographic variables and health status could not explain these differences.


Religion Spirituality Prayer Complementary and alternative medicine Health status Blacks Hispanics