Religiosity/Spirituality and Physiological Markers of Health

  • Eric C. Shattuck
  • Michael P. MuehlenbeinEmail author
Original Paper


The long-standing interest in the effects of religiosity and spirituality (R/S) on health outcomes has given rise to a large and diverse literature. We conducted a meta-analysis on research involving R/S and physiological markers of health to elucidate both the scope and mechanism(s) of this phenomenon. A combined analysis found a significant, but small, beneficial effect. Subgroup analyses found that some measures of both extrinsic and intrinsic religiosity were significantly associated with health. Several outcome measures, including blood pressure, C-reactive protein, and cardiovascular health markers, were significantly associated with R/S. Our findings suggest that R/S benefits health, perhaps through minimizing the disruptive effects of stress/depression on inflammation. We hope that researchers can use these results to guide efforts aimed at elucidating the true mechanism(s) linking religious/spiritual beliefs and physical health.


Religiosity Spirituality Prayer Health Meta-analysis Immune function Stress 



Samantha Mendoza, Elisha Grey, and Christian Dupuy provided assistance with the literature review.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


*** Denotes study included in analysis

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyBaylor UniversityWacoUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Health Disparities ResearchUniversity of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA

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