The study shows less distress after heart surgery in people who lean on faith for comfort and support than those who feel spiritually angry or doubtful.
The researchers included Amy Ai, Ph.D. She's an associate professor at the University of Washington's School of Social Work.
Ai's team studied 309 people due for major heart surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center between 1999 and 2002. The study was presented Thursday in New Orleans at the American Psychological Association's 2006 convention.
The patients were 33 to 89 years old. The average age was 62. Their faiths:
The patients were interviewed twice, once in person and once by phone, before surgery. They also took a survey about 36 days after surgery.
The pre-surgery interviews gauged the patients' religious coping style as being positive or negative.
Here are examples of those religious coping styles:
Other factors — which aren't necessarily religious — were also measured, including the patients' sense of hope and social support before surgery.
People with positive religious coping styles reported less psychological distress in the post-surgery survey than those with negative religious coping styles.
Social support and hope tended to go with positive religious coping styles, the study also shows.
Patients' faith may deserve more attention from health care workers, Ai and colleagues note.
SOURCES: American Psychological Association Convention 2006, New Orleans, Aug. 10-13, 2006. News release, American Psychological Association.
By Miranda Hitti. Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D. © 2006, WebMD Inc. All rights reserved