Physicians Are More Religious than Expected

Likely to be found in the physician's
bookshelf: the holy bible
© Hemera

The survey, performed by researchers at the University of Chicago, found that 90 percent of doctors in the United States attend religious services at least occasionally, compared to 81 percent of all adults. Fifty-five percent of doctors say their religious beliefs influence how they practice medicine.

These results were not anticipated. Religious belief tends to decrease as education and income levels increase, yet doctors are highly educated and, on average, well compensated. The finding also differs radically from 90 years of studies showing that only a minority of scientists (excluding physicians) believes in God or an afterlife.

"We did not think physicians were nearly this religious," said study author Farr Curlin, M.D., instructor in the department of medicine and a member of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. "We suspect that people who combine an aptitude for science with an interest in religion and an affinity for public service are particularly attracted to medicine. The responsibility to care for those who are suffering, and the rewards of helping those in need, resonate throughout most religious traditions."

Although physicians are nearly as religious as the general population, their specific beliefs often differ from those of their patients. While more than 80 percent of patients describe themselves at Protestant or Catholic, only 60 percent of physicians come from either group.

Physicians are 26 times more likely to be Hindu than the overall U.S. population (5.3% of doctors vs. 0.2% of non-physicians). Doctors are seven times more likely to be Jewish (14.1% vs. 1.9%), six times more likely to be Buddhist (1.2% vs. 0.2%) and five times more likely to be Muslim (2.7% vs. 0.5%).

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Chicago Medical Center