"Something about psychiatry, perhaps its historical ties to psychoanalysis and the anti-religious views of the early analysts such as Sigmund Freud, seems to dissuade religious medical students from choosing to specialize in this field," said study author Farr Curlin, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago.

“Because psychiatrists take care of patients struggling with emotional, personal and relational problems," Curlin said, "the gap between the religiousness of the average psychiatrist and her average patient may make it difficult for them to connect on a human level." In 2003, to learn about the contribution of religious factors on physicians' clinical practices, Curlin and colleagues surveyed 1,820 practicing physicians from all specialties, including an augmented number of psychiatrists; 1,144 (63%) physicians responded, including 100 psychiatrists.

Although 61 percent of all American physicians were either Protestant (39%) or Catholic (22%), only 37 percent of psychiatrists were Protestant (27%) or Catholic (10%). Twenty-nine percent were Jewish, compared to 13 percent of all physicians. Seventeen percent of psychiatrists listed their religion as "none," compared to only 10 percent of all doctors.

Curlin's survey also included this brief vignette, designed to present "ambiguous symptoms of psychological distress" as way measure the willingness of physicians to refer patients to psychiatrists: "A patient presents to you with continued deep grieving two months after the death of his wife. If you were to refer the patient, to which of the following would you prefer to refer first" (a psychiatrist or psychologist, a clergy member or religious counsellor, a health care chaplain, or other)."

Overall, 56 percent of physicians indicated they would refer such a patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist, 25 percent to a clergy member or other religious counselor, 7 percent to a health care chaplain and 12 percent to someone else.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Chicago