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Posted: February 11, 2009

Religion improves mental and physical health



Church-based social support networks may help improve mental and physical health, according to a study conducted by Dr. Elena Bastida. The federally funded study analyzed the effects of religious beliefs on support late in life.


"Core religious beliefs and providing support to others in late life," published in the journal Mental Health, Religion & Culture, studied how strong church-based social support networks, may be a result key religious beliefs. The study measured spiritual connectedness -- an awareness of the bond and sense of the interdependence among people.


Data from the national survey of older people in the U.S. revealed that a strong sense of spiritual connectedness is associated with providing more emotional support and tangible assistance to fellow church members. The data further reveal that older people with a strong sense of spiritual connectedness are more likely to pray for others. The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging.


Bastida also published "Persistent Disparities in the Use of Health Care Along the US-Mexico Border: An Ecological Perspective" in the American Journal of Public Health, which analyzed disparities in health care use among U.S.-Mexico border residents. Data from the study showed 60 percent of those younger than 65 had no health insurance coverage. The results also revealed those without insurance were more likely to use medical care in Mexico than the insured.


The study, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, concluded that the U.S. provided the only source of health care for many indigent populations. While treatment in Mexico may ease the health care burden for individuals, it does not decrease the burden of providing adequate care to those most in need.

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