'Blind Faith' Equals Less Healthy
- Monday, 22 October 2012
It's long been noted that laughter is the best medicine. We know that our outlook can dramatically affect our healing processes and our general sense of wellbeing. But new research indicates a strong correlation may also exist between whether or not we have a sense of blind faith or believe in "luck," and our overall health.
We've all probably seen cases of people with strong faiths having experienced healing 'miracles' – and likewise, we've probably also known some individuals rigidly invested In their health that can actually make themselves sick.
There is something liberating in letting go of controlling our lives and letting what will be, be. But surprisingly, new research points to the power of taking personal responsibility for one's actions as having a more potent impact on their health than those who believe luck or faith is on their side.
Recent research, entitled, "Healthy Habits: The Connection between Diet, Exercise, and Locus of Control," was published in the Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series: 2012 and conducted by Australia's Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. The study found that individuals who felt directly responsible for their own actions were more likely to make choices like eating better, exercising more and avoiding bad habits such as smoking or binge drinking, which can contribute to serious health problems.
The researchers used data on more than 7,000 people collected from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, and analyzed data on the personality types as well as their dietary and exercise habits. According to one of the study's authors, Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, Director of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, individuals who have greater faith in concepts such as luck and faith—meaning they believe their own actions have a less direct influence over their lives—were consistently less healthy than those who felt a greater sense of responsibility for their actions.
The study also found differences between men and women in how they approach their health and wellbeing. While men seem to focus on purely physical results of healthy living, women were found to focus on more diverse range of benefits from self-esteem and body image to disease prevention.
An interesting observation noted by the researchers was how the data could be used in addressing the issue of obesity—widespread in developed countries including Australia and the U.S. The researchers suggest that since the psychology of individuals affects their lifestyle choices, using direct education-based approaches may not actually be the most effective. Dr. Cobb-Clark noted, "Understanding the psychological underpinning of a person’s eating patterns and exercise habits is central to understanding obesity."
How specifically governments and health organizations could use this information to better impact the habits of at-risk communities has not yet been explored, but it could include more involvement with religious and faith-based organizations in addressing the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise regardless of how much faith guides an individual.
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Photo credit: Zdenko Zlvkovic