Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 205–225 | Cite as

Religious and Spiritual Beliefs of Physicians

  • Kristin A. RobinsonEmail author
  • Meng-Ru Cheng
  • Patrick D. Hansen
  • Richard J. Gray
Original Paper


The aim of this study is to describe religious and spiritual beliefs of physicians and examine their influence on the decision to pursue medicine and daily medical practice. An anonymous survey was e-mailed to physicians at a large, multidisciplinary tertiary referral center with satellite clinics. Data were collected from January 2014 through February 2014. There were 2097 respondents (69.1 % men), and number of practicing years ranged from ≤1 to ≥30. Primary care physicians or medical specialists represented 74.1 %, 23.6 % were in surgical specialties, and 2.3 % were psychiatrists. The majority of physicians believe in God (65.2 %), and 51.2 % reported themselves as religious, 24.8 % spiritual, 12.4 % agnostic, and 11.6 % atheist. This self-designation was largely independent of specialty except for psychiatrists, who were more likely report agnosticism (P = 0.003). In total, 29.0 % reported that religious or spiritual beliefs influenced their decision to become a physician. Frequent prayer was reported by 44.7 % of physicians, but only 20.7 % reported having prayed with patients. Most physicians consider themselves religious or spiritual, but the rates of agnosticism and atheism are higher than the general population. Psychiatrists are the least religious group. Despite the influence of religion on physicians’ lives and medical practice, the majority have not incorporated prayer into patient encounters.


Physician religiosity Physician spirituality Physician religious beliefs 



For information on data replication for future use, please contact Dr. Kristin Robinson. No funding was obtained for this research. There is no additional analysis noted in the text for which materials would need to be obtained.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin A. Robinson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Meng-Ru Cheng
    • 4
  • Patrick D. Hansen
    • 2
  • Richard J. Gray
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of RadiologyMayo Clinic HospitalPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.Care ManagementMayo Clinic HospitalPhoenixUSA
  3. 3.Division of General SurgeryMayo Clinic HospitalPhoenixUSA
  4. 4.BiostatisticsMayo ClinicScottsdaleUSA

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