Social Work

Date of this version


Document Type



spirituality, prayer, preventive medicine, behavior, risk factors, health care costs



Purpose: To describe the demographics, health-related and preventive-health behaviors, health status, and health care charges of adults who do and do not pray for health. Design: Cross-sectional survey with 1-year follow-up. Setting: A Minnesota health plan. Subjects: A stratified random sample of 5107 members age 40 and over with analysis based on 4404 survey respondents (86%). Measures: Survey data included health risks, health practices, use of preventive health services, satisfaction with care, and use of alternative therapies. Health care charges were obtained from administrative data. Results: Overall, 47.2% of study subjects reported that they pray for health, and 90.3% of these believed prayer improved their health. After adjustment for demographics, those who pray had significantly less smoking and alcohol use and more preventive care visits, influenza immunizations, vegetable intake, satisfaction with care, and social support and were more likely to have a regular primary care provider. Rates of functional impairment, depressive symptoms, chronic diseases, and total health care charges were not related to prayer. Conclusions: Those who pray had more favorable health-related behaviors, preventive service use, and satisfaction with care. Discussion of prayer could help guide customization of clinical care. Research that examines the effect of prayer on health status should adjust for variables related both to use of prayer and to health status.





Published in

Citation/Other Information

O’Connor, P. J., Pronk, N. P., Tan. A., & Whitebird, R. R. (2005). Characteristics of adults who use prayer as an alternative therapy. American Journal of Health Promotion, 19(5), 369-375.