Why Doctors Should Start Taking Your Past Spiritual History

Sharing what meaning you take from illness can enhance your treatment and sense of well-being.Illustration by Len Small

A little over a decade ago, Farr Curlin, a physician and professor of medical humanities at Duke Divinity School, became curious about the spiritual lives of his colleagues. He already knew that patients’ religious beliefs and communities matter: Both influence medical decisions and change the meaning of illness. But the influence of physicians’ religiosity on their work was relatively unknown.

So he and his colleagues conducted a national survey of physicians’ religious characteristics. He found that, compared to a sample of the general U.S. population, physicians were twice as likely to cope with their own major life problems without relying

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