Religion, spirituality and health: an American physician's response

Harold G Koenig
Med J Aust 2003; 178 (2): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2003.tb05060.x
Published online: 20 January 2003

Assessing patients' spirituality provides important medical information

In this issue of the Journal, Peach examines whether the medical profession in Australia ought to consider patients' religion or spirituality in clinical practice (page 86).1 There is much that Peach writes which I wholeheartedly support. This includes the important role that clergy play in medical settings, the need for further research on the health benefits (and risks) of spirituality in Australian patients, and the need to better understand the costs and benefits of Australian physicians making spiritual inquiries. However, on four points we disagree:

  • Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, US.


  • 1. Peach HG. Religion, spirituality and health: how should Australia's medical professionals respond? Med J Aust 2003; 178: 86-88.<eMJA full text>
  • 2. Princeton Religion Research Center. Religion in America. Report #130. Princeton, NJ: The Gallup Poll, 1976.
  • 3. 1998 Australian community survey. In: Kaldor P, Bellamy J, Powell R, et al. Build my church: trends and possibilities for Australian churches. Adelaide: OpenBook, 1999.
  • 4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia's health 2002. Canberra: AIHW, 2002; 188.
  • 5. Parker GB, Brown LB. Coping behaviors that mediate between life events and depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1982; 39: 1386-1391.
  • 6. D'Souza R. Do patients expect psychiatrists to be interested in spiritual issues? Australas Psychiatry 2002; 10: 44-47.
  • 7. Koenig HG, McCullough M, Larson DB. Handbook of religion and health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • 8. Kune GA, Kune S, Watson LF. Perceived religiousness is protective for colorectal cancer: data from the Melbourne Colorectal Cancer Study. J R Soc Med 1993; 86: 645-647.
  • 9. Chibnall JT, Brooks CA. Religion in the clinic: the role of physician beliefs. South Med J 2001; 94: 374-379.
  • 10. Koenig HG. An 83-year-old woman with chronic illness and strong religious beliefs. JAMA 2002; 288: 487-493.
  • 11. Van Loon A. The development of faith community nursing programs as a response to changing Australian health policy. Health Educ Behav 1998; 25: 790-799.
  • 12. Koenig HG. Spirituality in patient care: why, how, when, and what. Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2002.


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