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Externalizing religious health beliefs and health and well-being outcomes

Abstract

Certain religious beliefs related to perceptions of internal or external health control (including belief in the existence of miraculous healing, and beliefs deferring responsibility for health outcomes from the self and onto God) may be related to health behaviors and in turn to health outcomes. Using data from a nationally representative US survey of religion and health (N = 2948) this study evaluates a series of two structural equation models of the relationships between religious activity, externalizing religious health beliefs (belief in healing miracles and divine health deferral), health outcomes, and life satisfaction. Believing in healing miracles was related to greater divine health deferral. Greater divine health deferral was associated with poorer symptoms of physical health. Belief in miracles was related to greater life satisfaction. Comparison of coefficients across models indicated that externalizing beliefs had a significant suppressor effect on the relationship between religious activity and physical symptoms, but did not significantly mediate its relationship with life satisfaction. Religious beliefs emphasizing divine control over health outcomes may have negative consequences for health outcomes, although the same beliefs may contribute to a better sense of life satisfaction.

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Correspondence to R. David Hayward.

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Conflict of interest

R. David Hayward, Neal Krause, Gail Ironson and Kenneth I. Pargament declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

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Hayward, R.D., Krause, N., Ironson, G. et al. Externalizing religious health beliefs and health and well-being outcomes. J Behav Med 39, 887–895 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-016-9761-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-016-9761-7

Keywords

  • Religion
  • Health behavior
  • Personal control
  • Structural equation modeling