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Prayer is Good Medicine

Duke University’s Dr. Harold Koenig examines why people who live spiritual lives are so much healthier.

Heal
As the director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health, Dr. Harold Koenig has been studying the connection between spirituality and well-being since 1985. Koenig’s latest project is a $1.5 million study comparing the outcomes of secular and spirituality-based therapies.How did you come to study the connection between spirituality and health?I became interested in the topic as a medical resident. When I asked people with illness how they were coping, they would often talk about their religious faith. I was very moved by their responses and began to look for ways to study it. Many other researchers are exploring this intersection. There’s been a tripling of the data in the last 15 years or so.What are the health benefits of spirituality and religion?They run across the board. Religious involvement, particularly if there is a strong spiritual component, is associated with less depression and anxiety, greater well-being, and less drug and alcohol abuse. Research using MRIs suggests that it actually alters the structure of the brain in people at high risk for depression. …

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