|By René Hefti, M.D.
Research Institute for Spirituality and Health, Schwitzerland
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A recent meta-analyses (Chida et al. 2009) conveys a good overview on the literature and reflects on possible mechanisms. Chida distinguishes between healthy and diseased populations, showing that for healthy populations religious involvement has a well documented survival and health benefit, not so for diseased populations.
In a Swiss sample of 37 inpatients with moderate to severe depression we assessed religiosity (S-R-T, Structure of Religiosity Test, Huber) and blood pressure reactivity to a mental stress test (Color Stroop). We measured systolic and diastolic blood pressure before, during, and after stress testing. Blood pressure at baseline was not associated with religiosity (r = .044 for SBP and r = -.033 for DBP). In contrast, blood pressure elevation during Color Stoop task was significantly associated with religiosity (r = -.460**, p < .002 for SBP and r = -.369*, p < .012 for DBP). A linear regression model (entering age, gender, BDI, religiosity) confirmed these findings (beta coefficient for religiosity -.428). Results support the concept of stress buffering identifying religion as a moderator of physiological stress response.
Keywords: religiosity/spirituality, longevity, stress buffering