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Religion promotes health recovery

Italian study finds faith link to transplant survival

12 August, 18:20
Religion promotes health recovery (ANSA) - Rome, August 12 - Religious transplant patients have a greater chance of survival than those who don't believe in God, the results of an Italian study published on Thursday suggest. The research by the Clinical Physiology Institute of the Pisa National Research Council (IFC-CNR) drew its conclusions after studying 179 liver transplant patients over a four-year period. There was a marked difference in the survival rate between the deeply religious and those without faith, the research found. Four years after their operation, 93.5% of the faithful were still alive, compared to just 79.5% of non-believers. In other words, the mortality rate was three times higher among those who didn't believe in God - 20.5% compared to 6.6%. "This is a statistically significant difference," explained study leader psychologist Franco Bonaguidi. "It reduces the likelihood of a false positive to 2.6%, considerably lower than the conventional threshold of 5%".

The findings were based on a lengthy questionnaire about beliefs, controlled for a series of other factors including the age of recipient and donor, gender, education and employment, the nature of the disease and the type of transplant.

Faith clearly made a difference, the team concluded, but the findings also indicated that simply paying lip service to religion was not sufficient in itself. "The relevant factor is actively seeking the help of God, which is not about following a denominational faith," said Bonaguidi.

"Instead it is about an intimate side of people's personalities, which leads them to approach a serious disease as a chance to reconsider their own existence and values, and reassess its spiritual and transcendent elements". The Italian study is not the first to find a link between faith and health but it is the first to focus specifically on transplant recovery rates. Suggested explanations for this effect have focused both on physical and psychological benefits. In terms of the physical, religious precepts often promote healthy lifestyles, for example discouraging tobacco, alcohol, sexual promiscuity and excessive meat consumption. From a psychological viewpoint, suggestions have included a sense of purpose and structure, and close support networks.

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