Physicians' Religious Characteristics and Their Perceptions of the Psychological Impact of Patient Prayer and Beliefs at the End of Life: A National Survey.


Journal Article

BACKGROUND::Physicians who are more religious or spiritual may report more positive perceptions regarding the link between religious beliefs/practices and patients' psychological well-being. METHODS::We conducted a secondary data analysis of a 2010 national survey of US physicians from various specialties (n = 1156). Respondents answered whether the following patient behaviors had a positive or negative effect on the psychological well-being of patients at the end of life: (1) praying frequently, (2) believing in divine judgment, and (3) expecting a miraculous healing. We also asked respondents how comfortable they are talking with patients about death. RESULTS::Eighty-five percent of physicians believed that patients' prayer has a positive psychological impact, 51% thought that patients' belief in divine judgment has a positive psychological impact, and only 17% of physicians thought the same with patients' expectation of a miraculous healing. Opinions varied based on physicians' religious and spiritual characteristics. Furthermore, 52% of US physicians appear to feel very comfortable discussing death with patients, although end-of-life specialists, Hindu physicians, and spiritual physicians were more likely to report feeling very comfortable discussing death (adjusted odds ratio range: 1.82-3.00). CONCLUSION::US physicians hold divided perceptions of the psychological impact of patients' religious beliefs/practices at the end of life, although they more are likely to believe that frequent prayer has a positive psychological impact for patients. Formal training in spiritual care may significantly improve the number of religion/spirituality conversations with patients at the end of life and help doctors understand and engage patients' religious practices and beliefs.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Thompson, K; Tak, HJ; El-Din, M; Madani, S; Brauer, SG; Yoon, JD

Published Date

  • February 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 36 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 116 - 122

PubMed ID

  • 30079746

Pubmed Central ID

  • 30079746

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1938-2715

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1049-9091

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/1049909118792871


  • eng