Faith and Healing: Time Magazine

time magazine faith and healing

As Dr. Jeffrey Levin explains in Time’s article, “Faith and Healing” (Wallis, McDowell, Park and Towle: 24 June 1996),

“People, a growing number of them, want to examine the connection between healing and spirituality.” To do such research, he adds, “is no longer professional death.”

(Which is a good thing for our blog!)

The article, which focuses on research by Levin (a gerontologist and epidemiologist at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk), Dr. David Larson (a research psychiatrist formerly at the National Institute of Health and now at the National Institute for Healthcare Research), and Dr. Herbert Benson (founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital) is packed with information and definitely worth the read! But if you’re in a hurry, here are some key points:

  • A 1995 study at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center found that one of the best predictors of survival among 232 heart-surgery patients was the degree to which the patients said they drew comfort and strength from religious faith. Those who did not had more than three times the death rate of those who did;
  • A survey of 30 years of research on blood pressure showed that churchgoers have blood pressure 5 mm lower than non-churchgoers, even when adjusted to account for smoking and other risk factors;
  • Other studies have shown that men and women who attend church regularly have half the risk of dying from coronary-artery disease as those who rarely go to church.

The article presents a number of explanations for the correlation between faith and healing, ranging from the scientific to the spiritual. A few outtakes:

  • “In Benson’s view, prayer operates along the same biochemical pathways as the relaxation response. In other words, praying affects epinephrine and other corticosteroid messengers or “stress hormones,” leading to lower blood pressure, more relaxed heart rate and respiration and other benefits. Recent research demonstrates that these stress hormones also have a direct impact on the body’s immunological defenses against disease.”
  • “When either the amygdala or the hippocampus is electrically stimulated during surgery, some patients have visions of angels and devils. Patients whose limbic systems are chronically stimulated by drug abuse or a tumor often become religious fanatics. “The ability to have religious experiences has a neuro-anatomical basis,” concludes Rhawn Joseph, a neuroscientist at the Palo Alto VA Medical Center in California.”

And lastly, my favorite. Addressing the possibility that the faithful actually have God on their side, Dr. Levin answered: “I can’t directly study that, but as an honest scholar, I can’t rule it out.”

To read the full article online, click here. If you’d like to order a back copy, call Time at (800) 843-8463. Amazon has a few paper copies as well!


  1. says

    Awesome article! I don’t think I’ve read this one before. I’ll have to bookmark it.

    I love to read research that people have spent countless hours on and thousands of dollars just to confirm what the Word of God already says. :)

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