Senior Citizens Lead the Way as More Americans Turn
to Prayer for Better Health
Seniors lag in percentage increase in prayer over years – they
were already there!
May 23, 2011 – Praying for better health
dramatically increased among American adults over the past three
decades, rising 36 percent between 1999 and 2007, according to a study
published by the American Psychological Association. The study focused
on new data comparing 2002 to 2007 that found senior citizens are by far
more likely to turn to prayer in coping with health issues than younger
Not surprisingly, too, the senior citizens had a
smaller percentage increase in those saying they prayed recently,
because their numbers were already so high. One suggestion from the
researchers is that a previous study found that as pain becomes more
chronic, people are more likely to turn to prayer.
The authors of the study also noted that other
researchers have suggested that spirituality tends to increase with age,
which is possibly influenced by negative life events, such as chronic
illness and painful conditions. (See charts below)
Researchers analyzed data from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention's 1999, 2002 and 2007 National Health
Interview Surveys for an article in the May issue of the APA journal
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.
The study primarily focused on
comparisons of results between the 2002 and 2007 surveys, which
included, respectively, 30,080 adults (over 18 years old) from 44,540
households and 23,393 adults from 40,377 households.
"The United States did have an increase in worship
attendance across multiple religious faiths immediately after the 9/11
attack, but that has not stayed elevated. However, people continued to
use informal and private spiritual practices such as prayer," said lead
author Amy Wachholtz, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical
Americans Praying for Health 2002 to 2007
Weighted Percentages of Sample Characteristics by Use of Prayer:
National Health Interview Surveys, 2002 and 2007
"There is also a greater public awareness of
Buddhist-based mindfulness practices that can include prayerful
meditation, which individuals may also be using to address a variety of
People who had a decline in health as well as those
with improved health reported more prayer, suggesting that individuals
who experience a progressive disease or an acute health change are more
likely to use prayer to cope with the changing circumstances, the
While prayer about health issues increased across
all groups, from 43 percent in 2002 to 49 percent in 2007, the data
indicated that people with the highest incomes were 15 percent less
likely to pray than those with the lowest incomes, and people who
exercised regularly were 25 percent less likely to pray those who didn't
Percentages 2002 to 2007
Women, African-Americans and the well-educated were
most likely to pray about their health.
"We're seeing a wide variety of prayer use among
people with good income and access to medical care," Wachholtz said.
"People are not exchanging health insurance for prayer."
Some key findings:
● A significantly greater proportion of women
prayed compared to men, with 51 percent of women reporting prayer in
2002 and 56 percent in 2007, in contrast with 34 percent and 40 percent,
respectively, among men.
● African-Americans were more likely to pray for
their health than Caucasians, with 61 percent of African-Americans
reporting having done so in 2002 and 67 percent in 2007, compared to 40
percent and 45 percent for Caucasians during the same periods.
● People who were married, educated beyond high
school or had experienced a change in health for better or worse within
the last 12 months were also more likely to pray about health concerns,
the study found.
The study did not reveal the type of prayer people
used, or which occurred first – prayer or the health issue.
The American Psychological Association, in
Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional
organization representing psychology in the United States and is the
world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes
more than 154,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and
students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and
affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial
associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a
profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human
Article: "National Trends in Prayer Use as a Coping
Mechanism for Health Concerns: Changes From 2002 to 2007," Amy Wachholtz,
PhD, University of Massachusetts Medical School; Usha Sambamoorthi, PhD,
West Virginia University and Morehouse School of Medicine, Psychology of
Religion and Spirituality, Vol. 3, Issue 2.http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/rel-3-2-67.pdf
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