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Book and Media Reviews
December 24 2008

Medicine, Religion, and Health

JAMA. 2008;300(24):2922-2927. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.871

In his newest book, Medicine, Religion, and Health, Harold Koenig reviews the numerous studies linking religion (or spirituality) to health status, an area in which Koenig has published many articles and several books. In this book, he provides an overview of the topic, especially highlighting the numerous research efforts that have already been published.

Koenig sees religion “as a system of beliefs and practices observed by a community, supported by rituals that acknowledge, worship, communicate with, or approach the Sacred, the Divine, God (in Western cultures), or Ultimate Truth, Reality, or nirvana (in Eastern cultures)” (p 11). Acknowledging that the word “spirituality” is often used in a vague or loose manner today, Koenig perceives spirituality as needing a more rigorous definition in terms of research studies (ie, “it must have some connection to religion” [p 17]) so that one study can be compared with another but also as needing a more broad definition when it comes to actual patient practices (p 18), because some persons describe themselves as spiritual but not religious.