Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 7, pp 629–634 | Cite as

Religious characteristics of U.S. physicians

A national survey
  • Farr A. CurlinEmail author
  • John D. Lantos
  • Chad J. Roach
  • Sarah A. Sellergren
  • Marshall H. Chin
Original Article


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.

Key words

religion physicians spirituality survey 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Farr A. Curlin
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • John D. Lantos
    • 4
    • 2
    • 3
  • Chad J. Roach
    • 5
  • Sarah A. Sellergren
    • 6
  • Marshall H. Chin
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars ProgramThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.MacLean Center for Clinical Medical EthicsThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Section of General Pediatrics, Department of PediatricsThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  5. 5.Pritzker School of MedicineThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  6. 6.Committee on Human Development, Department of PsychologyThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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