James L. Hall Jr.
A number of studies in the past 10 years have provided evidence that connections between a person’s mind, body and spirit have the capacity to affect physical health. Some of the results:
- A researcher at the University of California at San Francisco found that breast cancer patients who participated in weekly group therapy sessions survived nearly twice as long as patients who did not participate.
- According to a study reported on in a 1987 issue of Social Science and Medicine, researchers have found that for an array of illnesses, from cardiovascular conditions to cancer, frequent attendance at worship services was linked with healthier lives.
- A study at the University of California at Los Angeles looked at people recovering from melanoma surgery. Those provided education on stress management and coping skills plus an hour and a half of counseling each week for six weeks had almost half the rate of cancer recurrence and a third fewer deaths than other melanoma patients in the next five-year period that followed.
- Researchers at Ohio State University have found that breast cancer patients with the greatest anxiety about their medical condition had the lowest levels of white blood cells that normally attack cancer and combat infection. In blood of women with high degrees of stress, there were 20 to 30 percent fewer natural killer cells that play key roles in the body’s defenses. The study is the first part in a long-term project to test whether controlling stress can play a role in fighting cancer.
- At Harvard, studies have shown that meditation can help lower high blood pressure, decrease the level of chronic pain and diminish nausea that accompanies chemotherapy.
- According to a 1989 issue of Journal of Religion and Health, a study of 400 men found that a strong religious commitment cut high blood pressure risks even among men who smoked.
- Research conducted at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center on a group of patients with psoriasis found that the skin of patients who received relaxation training along with standard phototherapy cleared more quickly that did the skin of patients receiving only the standard treatment.
- Biofeedback with children has diminished the severity and frequency of migraine headaches, researchers at a hospital in Cleveland say.
- A study at Ohio State University found that students examined during final exams had weaker immune responses to hepatitis than unstressed students.
- In a study of 172 students participating in religious groups, the religious students had better perceived health and fewer emergency room, physician, walk-in clinic and dentist visit than the unaffiliated group, says a 1991 issue of Psychological Reports.
- At Carnegie Mellon University, one researcher discovered that the more stress or more negative emotional state a person has, the more likely that person is to catch a cold when exposed to cold germs.
- A study at Dartmouth of heart surgery patients found that those who identified themselves as “very religious” were three times more likely to recover than those who were not.
- Researchers at the Mid America Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City found that heart patients who had someone praying for them — without their knowledge — suffered 10 percent fewer complications. Researchers came to the conclusion after studying 990 patients admitted during a year to the institute’s coronary care unit. Half the patients were prayed for daily by community volunteers; the other patients did not have anyone assigned to pray for them. Patients, families and caregivers were not aware of the study. After four weeks, prayed-for patients had about 10 percent fewer complications such as chest pain and cardiac arrest, researchers reported in “Archives of Internal Medicine.”