Less Health Risking Behaviors

Still another factor in the mechanism linking religion and health may be that religious behavior leads to less participation in those behaviors known to be in direct opposition to good health. Jarvis and Northcott (1987) reviewed the practices of members of nine major religions and found significant differences from nonpracticing controls in two main areas: Most religions (1) prescribe behavior that prevents illness or death or that assists in treatment of sickness and (2) proscribe behavior that is harmful to life or that would hinder treatment. Woods and Ironson (1999), in their examination of the role of religiosity-spirituality in medically ill patients, reported that those patients identifying themselves as religious were more apt to cite their religious beliefs as the reason they did not smoke, did not drink, and chose healthy diets than did those patients not identifying themselves as religious. Several studies report positive correlations between reported religiosity and abstinence from alcohol and controlled substances, as well as responsible sexual activity (Avants et al., 2001; Fierros & Brown, 2002; Hammermeister et al., 2001; Holder et al., 2000; Washington & Moxley, 2001).

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