A recent study present at the 114th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA)  found that post-operative recovery from cardiac surgery  improves in patients that have a positive religious belief, by aiding their psychological well-being.  Also, recovery in other patients, is impeded by having negative religious thoughts.


Recent research studies have indicated an intricate relationship between health and well-being  and religiosity.  This study determined the pathways through which postoperative recovery of 309 cardiac surgery patients was influenced by religious coping styles.


The University of Washington’s Amy L. Ai, Ph.D., and Crystal Park, Ph.D. of the University of Connecticut evaluated the coping attitudes of the patients as they recovered from surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


The scientists found that hope and perceived social support reduced anxiety and depression for the postoperative patients who used on a daily basis their positive religious coping skills.


“The contribution of social support to hope suggest that those who perceive more support at this critical moment may feel more hopeful about their recovery,” Dr. Ai said.  Positive religious coping skills includes forgiveness, thoughts of benevolence, spiritual connection, seeking spiritual support, fellowship with others who share the same beliefs, and religious purification.


On the other hand, negative coping styles are detrimental and contribute to the patient’s inability to protect their emotional well-being against depression and anxiety that tend to predict suboptimal postoperative recovery.  This relationship is related to both unhealthy mental health states during the preoperative and postoperative experience, and indicates an ongoing struggle with faith-based issues.


The negative coping patterns include, religious doubt, discontented spiritual relations, thoughts of punishing God, insecurity and interpersonal religious discontent.


Dr. Ai added, “This pathways appear to be key in understanding how religious coping styles may be helpful or harmful to a person’s ability to handle stressful situations.  These findings imply that health and mental health professionals should be more attentive to faith factors as inspirational or motivational springboards in some contexts.”



American Psychological Association