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Online Prayer Groups Helpful

A soon to be published study has found that intercessory online prayer can benefit the mental health of breast cancer patients.

The study, conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center of Excellence in Cancer Communications Research and funded by the National Cancer Institute was based on analysis of message transcripts from nearly one hundred breast cancer patients participating in an online health education and support system.

“We know that many cancer patients pray in online support groups to help them cope with their illness. This is the first study we are aware of that examines the psychological effects of this behavior,” says Bret Shaw, an associate scientist in UW-Madison’s College of Engineering and lead author of the study.

The results of the study are published in an advance issue of the journal PsychoOncology.

The analysis was conducted on message transcripts from 97 breast cancer patients participating in an online support group that was integrated with the Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS) “Living with Breast Cancer” program, a computer-based health education and support system.

The patients were recruited from Wisconsin and Michigan.

Surveys were administered before group access, then again four months later. Text messages within the computer-mediated support groups were analyzed using a text analysis program, which measured the percentage of words that were suggestive of religious belief and practice (e.g., pray, worship, faith, holy, God).

Writing a higher percentage of these religious words within the online support groups was associated with lower levels of negative emotions and higher levels of self-efficacy and functional well-being, even after controlling for patients’ pre-test levels of religious beliefs.

“From a psychological standpoint, there are a variety of reasons why cancer patients may benefit from prayer – whether on the Internet or elsewhere. In reviewing the messages, some of the most common ways study participants used religion to cope with their illness included putting trust in God about the course of their illness and consequently feeling less stressed, believing in an afterlife and therefore being less afraid of death, finding blessings in their lives and appraising their cancer experience in a more constructive religious light,” says Shaw.

Online Prayer Groups Helpful

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Online Prayer Groups Helpful. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2007/01/04/online-prayer-groups-helpful/522.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.