Scholars note that after years of separation between religious and medical research, during the past decade, there has been an outpouring of interest in the connections between the two research areas (Koenig, 2008a). Since 2000, the field of religion, spirituality, and health has grown exponentially to include more than 7,000 studies (Koenig, 2008b).
Despite this burgeoning interest and the large number of recent studies, the field exploring the influence of religion/spirituality on health is still a relatively young, developing research area with evolving research measures and methods. There is an increasing number of randomized trials that test the effects of religious practices, such as intercessory prayer (Benson et al., 2006) and faith-based service components, on health outcomes (Johnson, Tompkins, & Webb, 2002). The breadth of this research area spans several health outcomes including:
- mental health (e.g., depression and trauma),
- well-being (e.g., quality of life and happiness),
- physical health (e.g., acute and chronic illness),
- prevention and treatment, and
- use of health care services.