Spiritual kids are more likely to be healthier, just like their adult counterparts, according to a new study.
Dr. Barry Nierenberg, associate professor of psychology at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, came to this conclusion after studying the relationship between faith and health.
"A number of studies have shown a positive relationship between participatory prayer and lower rates of heart disease, cirrhosis, emphysema and stroke in adults," he said.
He added: "Prayer has been shown to correlate to lower blood pressure, cortisol levels, rates of depression, as well as increased rates of self-described well being. But very few studies have attempted to examine how children's spiritual beliefs impact their health."
At the very beginning, Nierenberg conducted a study of HIV positive paediatric patients, aged seven to 17, comparing religious development, church attendance and prayer to health measures like symptoms, T-cell counts and number of hospitalisations.
He said: "One significant finding was that children who attended church were more likely to have higher T-cell counts than non churchgoing children. But that finding is difficult to interpret. It's likely that the more ill a child is, the less ability they have to attend church. We needed a second study to more precisely examine religious faith and behaviour."
The researchers thus studied 16 children, aged six to 20, who were undergoing haemodialysis due to End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).
The patients were questioned on a scale of spirituality behaviours and attitudes, and their responses were correlated to dialysis-related blood levels, including blood urea nitrogen (BUN), lymphocytes, albumin, phosphorus, parathyroid hormone (PTH), and urea reduction ratio.
Nierenberg said: "There was a significant negative correlation between spiritual attitudes and BUN levels. As children reported more agreement with statements like, 'I am sure that God cares about me,' and 'God has a plan for me," their average BUN levels over the past year were lower."
He presented on the topic at the American Psychological Association's Division of Rehabilitation Psychology national conference on February 27, in Jackson, Florida.