Physician perspectives on the role of religion in the physician-older patient relationship.
A study of 160 family physicians and general practitioners found that the majority of physicians believed that religion has a positive effect on the mental health of older patients, and many believed that religion has a positive effect on physical health. While more than one half reported that patients only rarely, if ever, mentioned religious issues during a medical visit, a significant proportion of the physicians felt they should address religious issues when an older person indicates religion's importance and that religious issues should not be reserved completely for the clergy. Nearly two thirds of the physicians felt that prayer with patients was appropriate under certain circumstances, and over one third reported having prayed with older patients during extreme physical or emotional distress. Older physicians were less likely than younger to have positive attitudes toward addressing religious issues. The strongest predictors of physicians' belief in the appropriateness of addressing religious concerns were two attitudinal variables that indicated an understanding of the importance of religion in the lives of older adults and an awareness that patients might desire to engage in prayer with them. Hence, the beliefs and attitudes of the physician appear to be important factors in determining their receptivity to discussion of religious issues, which in turn may influence whether patients mention such issues in the context of the medical visit.
Koenig, HG; Bearon, LB; Dayringer, R
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