Friday, September 07, 2007

Psychiatrists are the Least Religious of all Physicians

Super big surprise! Those who spend their lives studying the way the mind functions are less likely to believe in God and the afterlife than other physicians, according to

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.

The survey contained questions about medical specialties, religion, and measures of what the researchers called intrinsic religiosity—the extent to which individuals embrace their religion as the "master motive that guides and gives meaning to their life."

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.

I guess that's what happens when you try to lean into thine own understanding, huh? Thinking for oneself is hazardous to God’s health. Who would have guessed?

The article continues:

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 counselor, 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.

Although Protestant physicians were only half as likely to send the patient to a psychiatrist, Jewish physicians were more likely to do so. Least likely were highly religious Protestants who attended church at least twice a month and looked to God for guidance "a great deal or quite a lot."

"Patients probably seek out, to some extent, physicians who share their views on life’s big questions," Curlin said. That may be especially true in psychiatry, where communication is so essential. The mismatch in religious beliefs between psychiatrists and patients may make it difficult for patients suffering from emotional or personal problems to find physicians who share their fundamental belief systems.

So the religious doctors are more likely to refer their patients to religious counselors rather than psychiatrists. Super big surprise!

One word of advice to my readers (especially any religious ones): If you need to see a quack about problems with your noggin', it would behoove you to visit a non-religious quack. This is because it’s far safer (you know, the "life-or-death" kind of safer) to be referred to a shrink than to a preacher. And this is because religious counseling is a catalyst for suicide.

I suppose that it's somewhat Darwinian in the sense that those who lean into their own understanding are more likely to get medical and mental help that doesn't cause them to kill themselves, while those who merely trust in the Lord are more likely to kill themselves and/or their offspring.

And of course, let's not forget that, out of these two possible outcomes, each person is getting what they (perhaps subconsciously) want: The non-religious get a healthier and happier and longer life here on Earth, while the religious types achieve the death (they prefer the "afterlife" misnomer) that they so desperately desire.


vjack said...

I suspect some of it has to do with the frequency with which psychiatrists treat schizophrenics with religious delusions. After encountering a few, it becomes fairly easy to see that ordinary religious belief is similarly delusional.

Aaron Kinney said...

Thats totally true, Vjack.

A friend of mine is an ambulance driver in the Skid Row area in downtown Los Angeles. He says that all the craziest homeless people around there are the most religious.