BACKGROUND: Patients’ religious commitments and religious communities are known to influence their experiences of illness and their medical decisions. Physicians are also dynamic partners in the doctorpatient relationship, yet little is known about the religious characteristics of physicians or how physicians’ religious commitments shape the clinical encounter.
OBJECTIVE: To provide a baseline description of physicians’ religious characteristics, and to compare physicians’ characteristics with those of the general U.S. population.
DESIGN/PARTICIPANTS: Mailed survey of a stratified random sample of 2,000 practicing U.S. physicians. Comparable U.S. population data are derived from the 1998 General Social Survey.
MEASUREMENTS/RESULTS: The response rate was 63%. Fifty-five percent of physicians say their religious beliefs influence their practice of medicine. Compared with the general population, physicians are more likely to be affiliated with religions that are underrepresented in the United States, less likely to say they try to carry their religious beliefs over into all other dealings in life (58% vs 73%), twice as likely to consider themselves spiritual but not religious (20% vs 9%), and twice as likely to cope with major problems in life without relying on God (61% vs 29%).
CONCLUSIONS: Physicians’ religious characteristics are diverse and they differ in many ways from those of the general population. Researchers, medical educators, and policy makers should further examine the ways in which physicians’ religious commitments shape their clinical engagements.
religion physicians spirituality survey
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Monroe MH, Bynum D, Susi B, et al. Primary care physician preferences regarding spiritual behavior in medical practice. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163:2751–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Multidimensional measurement of religiousness/spirituality for use in health research: a report of the Fetzer Institute/National Institute on Aging Working Group. October 1999. Available at www.fetzer.orgGoogle Scholar
Allport G, Ross J. Personal religious orientation and prejudice. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1967;5:447–57.Google Scholar
Ellison CG, Gay DA, Glass TA. Does religious commitment contribute to individual life satisfaction? Soc Forces. 1989;68:100–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hatch RL, Burg MA, Naberhaus DS, Hellmich LK. The spiritual involvement and beliefs scale: development and testing of a new instrument. J Fam Practice. 1998;46:476–86.Google Scholar
Underwood LG, Teresi JA. The daily spiritual experience scale: development, theoretical description, reliability, exploratory factor analysis, and preliminary construct validity using health-related data. Ann Behav Med. 2002;24:22–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zinnhauer BJ, Pargament KI, Scott A. The emerging meanings of religiousness and spirituality: problems and prospects. J Pers. 1999;67:889–919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hall DE, Koenig HG, Meador KG. Conceptualizing “religion”: how language shapes and constrains knowledge in the study of religion and health. Perspect Biol Med. 2004;47:386–401.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Groves RM, Fowler FJ, Couper MP, Lepkowski JM, Singer E, Tourangeau R. Survey Methodology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2004:321–8.Google Scholar
Cohen AB, Hall DE, Koenig HG, Meador KG. Social versus individual motivation: implications for normative definitions of religious orientations. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2005;9:48–61.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marx JH, Spray SL. Religious biographies and professional characteristics of psychotherapists. J Health Soc Behav. 1969;10:275–88.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bergin AE, Jensen JP. Religiosity of psychotherapists: a national survey. Psychotherapy. 1990;27:3–7.Google Scholar
Neeleman J, King MB. Psychiatrists’ religious attitudes in relation to their clinical practice: a survey of 231 psychiatrists. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1993;88:420–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ward BJ, Tate PA. Attitudes among NHS doctors to requests for euthanasia. BMJ. 1994;308:1332–4.PubMedGoogle Scholar
Onwuteaka-Philipsen BD, Muller MT, van der Wal G, van Eijk JT, Ribbe MW. Attitudes of Dutch general practitioners and nursing home physicians to active voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Arch Fam Med. 1995;4:951–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schmidt TA, Zechnich AD, Tilden VP, et al. Oregon emergency physicians’ experiences with, attitudes toward, and concerns about physician-assisted suicide. Acad Emerg Med. 1996;3:938–45.PubMedGoogle Scholar
Lee MA, Nelson HD, Tilden VP, Ganzini L, Schmidt TA, Tolle SW. Legalizing assisted suicide—views of physicians in Oregon. N Engl J Med. 1996;334:310–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bachman JG, Alcser KH, Doukas DJ, Lichtenstein RL, Corning AD, Brody H. Attitudes of Michigan physicians and the public toward legalizing physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. N Engl J Med. 1996;334:303–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vincent JL. Forgoing life support in western European intensive care units: the results of an ethical questionnaire. Crit Care Med. 1999;27:1626–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Christakis NA, Asch DA. Physician characteristics associated with decisions to withdraw life support. Am J Public Health. 1995;85:367–72.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Neumann JK, Olive KE. Absolute versus relative values: effects on family practitioners and psychiatrists. South Med J. 2003;96:452–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sheehan MC, Munro JG, Ryan JG. Attitudes of medical practitioners towards abortion: a Queensland study. Aust Fam Physician. 1980;9:565–70.PubMedGoogle Scholar
Miller NH, Miller DJ, Pinkston Koenigs LM. Attitudes of the physician membership of the society for adolescent medicine toward medical abortions for adolescents. Pediatrics. 1998;101:E4.Google Scholar
Aiyer AN, Ruiz G, Steinman A, Ho GY. Influence of physician attitudes on willingness to perform abortion. Obstet Gynecol. 1999;93:576–80.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shuman JJ, Meador KG. Heal Thyself: Spirituality, Medicine, and the Distortion of Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press; 2003.Google Scholar