National trends in prayer use as a coping mechanism for health concerns: Changes from 2002 to 2007

Amy Wachholtz, Usha Sambamoorthi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The objective of this research was to analyze national trends in the use of prayer to cope with health concerns. Data are from the Alternative Medicine Supplement of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) 2002 (N = 30,080) and 2007 (N = 22,306). We categorized prayer use into 3 groups: never prayed, prayed in the past 12 months, and did not pray in the past 12 months. Chi-square tests and multinomial logistic regressions were performed to analyze prayer use over time. All analyses adjusted for the complex sample design of the NHIS and were conducted in SAS-callable SUDAAN. Recent use (within 12 months) of prayer for health concerns significantly increased from 43 in 2002 to 49 in 2007. After adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic status, health status, and lifestyle behaviors, prayer use was more likely in 2007 than 2002 (adjusted odds ratio = 1.21, 95 CI [1.14, 1.28]). Across time, individuals reporting dental pain were more likely to use prayer to cope compared with those with no pain. The adjusted odds ratios were 1.2 (95 CI [1.09, 1.33]) in 2002 and 1.16 (95 CI [1.03, 1.3]) in 2007. Other predictors of prayer, including gender, race, psychological distress, changing health status, and functional limitations, remained consistent across both time periods. Overall, prayer use for health concerns increased between 2001 and 2007. The escalating positive association between pain and prayer use for health concerns over time suggests that it is critical for mental and physical health treatment providers to be aware of the prevalence of this coping resource.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-77
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology of Religion and Spirituality
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2011


  • coping
  • health
  • pain
  • prayer
  • spirituality


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