Jeff Levin. (2017). “An Antipoverty Agenda for Public Health: Background and Recommendations.” Public Health Reports.
Jeff Levin. (2017). “New Paradigm Research in Medicine: An Agenda.” Journal for Scientific Exploration 31:49-70.
Critics of Western medicine have long heralded a “new paradigm” opposed to the reigning materialistic worldview of biomedical science and allopathy. This new paradigm has undergone several name changes (e.g., holistic, alternative, complementary, integrative) and presumably advances a radically new worldview. On closer inspection, it looks more like the opposite pole of the same dualistic worldview and not a radical break with the past. A truly new paradigm prepared to jettison tacit conceptual assumptions would have significant implications for medical research, provided that institutional and professional constraints not inhibit the studies to follow. A research agenda is proposed comprising possible jumping-off points for investigators comfortable with working around the reigning assumptions both of current medical thinking and of a rapidly institutionalizing integrative-medicine worldview. These include proposed medical research on spirituality, alien abductions, hierophanies, thought forms, placebo pharmacology, radionics, arcane medical wisdom, prenatal ensoulment, and musical genetics.
Jeff Levin. (2017). “What is ‘Healing’?: Reflections on Diagnostic Criteria, Nosology, and Etiology.” EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing.
This paper examines the conceptual history and contemporary usages of the term “healing.” In response to longstanding definitional ambiguity, reflections are offered on what are termed the diagnostic criteria, nosology, and etiology of healing. First, a summary is provided of how healing has been defined within medicine. Second, the dimensionality of healing is discussed. Third, healing’s putative determinants are outlined. For biomedicine, healing mainly concerns repair of wounds or lesions and is unidimensional. For complementary medicine, by contrast, healing has been defined alternatively as an intervention, an outcome, and a process–or all of these at once–and is multidimensional, impacting multiple systems from the cellular to the psychosocial and beyond. Notwithstanding these usages, a review of medical texts reveals that healing is rarely defined, nor are it dimensionality or determinants described. Persistent lack of critical attention to the meaning of “healing” has implications for medical research and practice.
Over the past couple decades, research on religion and health has grown into a thriving field. Misperceptions about the history and scope of this field, however, continue to exist, especially among new investigators and commentators on this research. Contrary to the tacit narrative, published research and writing date to the 19th Century, programmatic research to the 1950s, and NIH funding to 1990; elite medical journals have embraced this topic for over 100 years; study populations are religiously and sociodemographically diverse; and published findings are mostly positive, consistent with psychosocial theories of health and confirmed by comprehensive reviews and expert panels.
Interconnections between the faith-based and medical sectors are multifaceted and have existed for centuries, including partnerships that have evolved over the past several decades in the U.S. This paper outlines ten points of intersection that have engaged medical and healthcare professionals and institutions across specialties, focusing especially on primary care, global health, and community-based outreach to underserved populations. In a time of healthcare resource scarcity, such partnerships—involving religious congregations, denominations, and communal and philanthropic agencies—are useful complements to the work of private-sector medical care providers and of federal, state, and local public health institutions in their efforts to protect and maintain the health of the population. At the same time, challenges and obstacles remain, mostly related to negotiating the complex and contentious relations between these two sectors. This paper identifies pressing legal/constitutional, political/policy, professional/jurisdictional, ethical, and research and evaluation issues that need to be better addressed before this work can realize its full potential.
Using data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey (N = 1,714), this study investigates the prevalence and religious predictors of healing prayer use among U.S. adults. Indicators include prayed for self (lifetime prevalence = 78.8%), prayed for others (87.4%), asked for prayer (54.1%), laying-on-of-hands (26.1%), and participated in a prayer group (53.0%). Each was regressed onto eight religious measures, and then again controlling for sociodemographic variables and health. While all religious measures had net effects on at least one healing prayer indicator, the one consistent predictor was a four-item scale assessing a loving relationship with God. Higher scores were associated with more frequent healing prayer use according to every measure, after controlling for all other religious variables and covariates.
Research findings on religion and health among Jews are in relatively short supply. While recent studies report on the health of Israelis and the mental health of Jews in the U.S., little information exists on the physical health of U.S. Jews, especially from population surveys. In this study, data are analyzed from five urban surveys of Jews conducted since 2000: two surveys from New York (N = 4,533; N = 5,993) and one apiece from Chicago (N = 1,993), Philadelphia (N = 1,217), and Boston (N = 1,766). A strategy of two-way ANCOVA with interaction was used to test for differences in self-rated health across five categories of Jewish religious affiliation (secular, Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Orthodox) and four categories of synagogue attendance (from never to at least weekly). Findings, adjusted for age and effects of other covariates, reveal that affiliated and synagogue-attending Jews report moderately better health than secular and non-attending Jews.
Faith-based institutions and organizations represent a longstanding yet underutilized resource for health promotion and disease prevention efforts. The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and its affiliated office within the Department of Health and Human Services, are the highest-profile markers of federal efforts, but most faith-health partnerships are not federally funded and date back many decades. Formal partnerships between the faith-based and public health sectors encompass activities in the fields of health behavior and health education, health policy and management, epidemiology and biostatistics, and environmental health. These partnerships are instrumental for achieving both domestic and global health promotion priorities.
This study investigates religious predictors of happiness in a population-based sample of Israeli Jewish adults (N = 991). Using data collected in 2009-2010 as a part of the International Social Survey Programme’s Religion III Survey, analyses were conducted on a fully recursive structural model of the effects of synagogue attendance and several religious mediators on a single-item measure of happiness. Bivariately, every religious measure (synagogue attendance, prayer frequency, certainty of God beliefs, a four-item Supernatural Beliefs Scale, and subjective religiosity) is positively and significantly associated with happiness. In the structural model, 11 of 15 hypothesized paths are significant. Of these, only subjective religiosity exhibits a significant direct effect on happiness (beta = .15, p < .01). The other four religious indicators, however, all exert indirect effects on happiness through subjective religiosity and combinations of each other. Total effects on happiness of both synagogue attendance (beta = .10, p < .01) and the Supernatural Beliefs Scale (beta = .12, p < .05) are statistically significant. Analyses adjust for effects of age and other sociodemographic covariates. Results build on a growing body of population-based findings supporting a salutary impact of Jewish religious observance on subjective well-being in Israel and the diaspora.
This study investigates the relationship between religious behavior and health status and psychological well-being in a population sample of Israeli Jewish adults (N = 1,849). Using data from the Israeli sample of the European Social Survey, measures of synagogue attendance and private prayer were examined in relation to single-item indicators of subjective and functional health, happiness, and life satisfaction and to a three-item scale tapping into the somatic dimension of well-being. Bivariately, the religious, health, and well-being measures are mostly related, and in a salutary direction, but multivariable analyses revealed that these associations are more nuanced. Specifically, after age-adjustment and controls for effects of various sociodemographic characteristics, including Israeli nativity, synagogue attendance is associated with greater happiness only, while prayer is associated with greater happiness and life satisfaction and higher scores on the well-being scale. Additionally, prayer is significantly associated with functional health, but in an inverse direction, suggesting its use as a coping resource in response to physical or functional challenges or impairments. These latter results are supported by supplemental analyses of the well-being indicators which also adjust for possible exogenous or moderating effects of functional health. These findings contribute to current streams of empirical research on the putative influence of Jewish religious observance on physical and mental health and psychological well-being in Israel and the Jewish diaspora.
This study reports on analyses of Jewish respondents (N = 6,056) from the 2009 Israel Social Survey. Multivariable methods were used to investigate whether religiously observant Jews have greater physical and psychological well-being. After adjustment for age and other sociodemographic correlates of religion and well-being and for a measure of Israeli Jewish religious identity (i.e., secular, traditional, religious, ultra-Orthodox), two findings stand out. First, greater Jewish religious observance is significantly associated with higher scores on indicators of self-rated health, functional health, and life satisfaction. Second, there is a gradient-like trend such that greater religiousness and life satisfaction are observed as one moves “rightward” across religious identity categories. These findings withstand adjustment for effects of all covariates, including Israeli nativity and Jewish religious identity.
This study investigates the impact of religiousness on mental health indicators in a population sample of Israeli Jews aged 50 or older. Data are from the Israel sample of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE-Israel), collected from 2005 to 2006. Of the 1,287 Jewish respondents, 473 (36.8%) were native-born Israelis and 814 (63.2%) were diaspora-born. Religious measures included past-month synagogue activities, current prayer, and having received a religious education. Mental health outcomes included single-item measures of lifetime depression and life satisfaction, along with the CES-D and EURO-D depression scales, the CASP-12 quality of life scale, and the LOT-R optimism scale. Participation in synagogue activities was found to be significantly associated with less depression, better quality of life, and more optimism, even after adjusting for effects of the other religious measures, for sociodemographic covariates, for the possibly confounding effect of age-related activity limitation, and for nativity. Findings for prayer were less consistent, including inverse associations with mental health, perhaps reflecting prayer’s use as a coping response. Finally, religious education was associated with greater optimism. These results underscore the contribution of religious participation to well-being among middle-aged and older adults, extending this research to the Israeli and Jewish populations.
This article proposes an agenda for the Surgeon General of the United States that is consonant with the traditional public health approach of “upstream” and “midstream” intervention addressing social and institutional determinants of health. Accordingly, this would feature a prominent role for expanded partnerships between the faith-based and public health sectors. Such an agenda would revise the current status quo for the Surgeon General, whose celebrated bully pulpit is currently focused more on encouraging “downstream” compliance with federal guidelines related to lifestyle behavior modification. A new faith-based agenda, by contrast, could more effectively advocate for core features of the public health ethic, including primary prevention, the multiple determinants of population health, communitarianism and social justice, and a global perspective, supported by the historic prophetic role of the faith traditions.
Background: Despite decades of research on religious correlates or determinants of health, this subject has not been systematically investigated within Jewish populations, in Israel or the diaspora. The present paper is part of a series of studies drawing on large-scale population data sources to map the impact of religiousness on the physical and mental health of Jews.
Objectives: This study aims to identify religious predictors of a variety of physical health indicators in a national probability sample of older Israeli Jews.
Methods: Data from this study are from the Israeli sample of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), a cross-national survey program involving nearly a dozen nations. The Israeli sample contains 1,287 Jewish respondents aged 50 or over. Outcome measures include single-item assessments of self-rated health, long-term health problems, and activity limitation, and validated indices of diagnosed chronic diseases, physical symptoms, and ADLs and IADLs.
Results: Recent synagogue attendance is a significant predictor of better health for six of the seven health indicators, even after adjusting for age and several other covariates and mediators, including indices of health-related behavior and social support. Prayer, by contrast, is inversely associated with health according to five indicators, perhaps reflecting its use as a coping response for individuals experiencing health challenges.
Conclusions: This study presents modest evidence of a salutary function of Jewish religiousness, on average, across this population of older adults. Religiousness, in the form of synagogue participation, serves a protective function, and prayer serves, ostensibly, a coping function.
This study investigates the impact of selected religious indicators on two measures of positive well-being among Jews. Using data from subsamples of Jewish respondents from Israel (N = 1,023) and the diaspora (N = 859) taken from the World Values Survey, single-item measures of happiness and life satisfaction were regressed onto six measures of religiousness in the diaspora sample and onto the one religious measure available in the Israeli sample, adjusting for effects of age, gender, marital status, education, employment, and social class. Among Israeli Jews, affirming the importance of God in one’s life is modestly associated with greater life satisfaction (beta = 0.07, p < 0.05), but not with happiness. In the diaspora, the same measure is associated with greater happiness (beta = 0.13, p < 0.01), as is more frequent attendance at synagogue services (beta = 0.14, p < 0.01), but neither is associated with life satisfaction.
This paper explores the tacit presumption that U.S. government disclosure of information regarding prior contact with extraterrestrials would precipitate a religious crisis (presuming that there is information to disclose). This issue has remained controversial since the earliest ufological writing, both government and academic, yet only minimal empirical evidence has been forthcoming. The present analysis is based on data collected as a part of the Alexander UFO Religious Crisis Survey (AUFORCS), a private study of Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish clergy (N = 229) conducted in 1994 whose raw data only recently have been made public (to the author of this paper). The AUFORCS consisted of 11 statements about extraterrestrial contact, alien life, and a putative impact on religion, scaled on a five-point Likert metric requiring respondents to affirm their agreement or disagreement with each item. Findings from the AUFORCS data confirm that disclosure would not precipitate much of a religious crisis. Nor do there appear to be substantive differences in how leaders of respective religious traditions would react to such disclosure. The desirability of replicating this study through a large-scale national probability survey of the U.S. adult population is discussed.
Despite passage of H.R. 3590 in the 111th Congress, the national healthcare debate in the U.S. continues, with repeal or modification of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act under ongoing consideration. Reference is often made to morality or ethics, but typically in general terms only. This paper elucidates themes from one system of moral theology, namely Jewish healthcare ethics, that would valuably inform this debate. Themes include “covenant,” “holiness,” “justice,” “mercy,” “for the sake of peace,” “to save a life,” “peoplehood,” “repair of the world,” “repentance,” and “jubilee.” Policy-related, economic, political, and moral challenges to acting on these principles are discussed.
This article summarizes how the Office of the Surgeon General can leverage faith-based resources to fulfill its mission and that of the Surgeon General of the United States. Such resources, personal and institutional, have been utilized historically in health promotion and disease prevention efforts and are a valuable ally for public health, an alliance that continues under the Obama administration. This paper outlines the history and mission of the Office; details the recent history of federal faith-based initiatives; and advocates an expanded alliance between the faith-based and public health sectors sensitive to legal and professional boundaries.
Background: This study investigates religious predictors of psychological well-being and psychological distress in a five-year national probability sample of Israeli Jews (N = 4,073). Data were taken from the 2006-2010 annual surveys of Israel as a part of the multinational Gallup World Poll.
Methods: Analyses identified religious predictors of five-item scales of well-being and distress, adjusting for effects of several covariates, including health satisfaction. Additional analyses examined differences in religion, well-being and distress, and their interrelationships by categories of Jewish religious identity and observance (hiloni, masorti, dati, and haredi).
Results: Levels of religiousness and of well-being increase as one moves “rightward” across Jewish observance. Self-ratings of importance of religion and religious attendance are significantly associated with well-being, overall, and a religious harmony scale is associated with both well-being (positively) and distress (inversely), and with these measures’ respective items, overall and across Jewish observance.
Conclusions: Religious indicators are significant predictors of both psychological well-being and psychological distress in Israeli Jews, regardless of Jewish religious observance.
This paper surveys the field of Judaism and health. The authors trace the history of discourse on health and healing within Judaism, from the biblical and rabbinic eras to contemporary research and writing on Jewish bioethics, pastoral care, communal services, and aging, including congregational and community programming related to health and illness and emergence of the Jewish healing movement. The work of the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health is described, focusing on efforts to unite these various threads into a scholarly field emphasizing basic and applied research on the instrumental functions of Jewish religious life for health and well-being.
Using data from the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) (N = 5,148), effects of eight religious measures were investigated in relation to two health outcomes, standard single-item indicators of self-rated health and presence of an activity-limiting health condition. Seven of the religious measures were associated bivariately with one or both health indicators. Through two-step OLS regression of each health indicator onto all of the religious measures, adjusting for age and other sociodemographic correlates, two measures of synagogue involvement remained statistically significant. Follow-up analysis revealed a net health impact of religious observance primarily limited to Orthodox and Conservative Jews.
Jeff Levin, Robert Joseph Taylor, and Linda M. Chatters. (2011). “Prevalence and Sociodemographic Correlates of Spiritual Healer Use: Findings from the National Survey of American Life.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine 19:63-70.
Objectives: This study investigates sociodemographic and health-related correlates of use of a spiritual healer for medical help. A large national, multiracial-multiethnic data source permits a more comprehensive investigation than was possible in previous studies. It also enables a closer focus on socioeconomic disadvantage and health need as determinants of utilization.
Design and setting: Respondents are from the National Survey of American Life: Coping with Stress in the 21st Century (NSAL), a nationally representative multi-stage area-probability survey of U.S. adult African Americans, Caribbean Blacks, and non-Hispanic Whites conducted from 2001-2003. The sample contains 6,082 adults aged 18 and over.
Main outcome measures: NSAL respondents were surveyed about lifetime use of alternative providers for medical care or advice. Response categories included two types of spiritual healers: faith healers and psychics. These outcomes were logistically regressed, separately, onto 10 sociodemographic or health-related indicators: race/ethnicity, age, gender, marital status, education, household income, region, medical care use, insurance coverage, and self-rated health.
Results: Lifetime utilization of a faith healer is more prevalent among respondents in good health and less prevalent among Caribbean Blacks and never married persons. Users of a psychic healer are more likely to be educated, residents of the Northeast or West, and previously married, and less likely to report excellent health.
Conclusions: Use of a spiritual healer is not due, on average, to poor education, marginal racial/ethnic or socioeconomic status, dire health straits, or lack of other healthcare options. To some extent, the opposite appears to be true. Use of a spiritual healer is not associated with fewer social and personal resources or limitations in health or healthcare.
This paper surveys the landscape of energy healing, offering a taxonomy and conceptual overview of the work of practitioners. First, systems of energy healing are classified under four categories: an East Asian tradition, a Western professional tradition, a bioenergy tradition, and a contemporary metaphysical tradition. Examples of each are provided. Second, the possibility of core concepts in energy healing is broached, focusing specifically on five issues: the source of healing and its pathway of transmission, what it is that is being transmitted, what it is that healers do, the healer’s state of consciousness, and requirements of clients in order to receive healing. Third, a discussion is provided of the relative importance of technique in energy healing. Fourth, what really matters for healing is proposed, emphasizing three factors: focus, intention, and compassion. Finally, the paper concludes by suggesting that formally trained energy practitioners do not have a monopoly on energy healing.
This paper provides an overview of theory in religion, aging, and health. It offers both a primer on theory and a roadmap for researchers. Four “tenses” of theory are described-distinct ways that theory comes into play in this field: grand theory, mid-range theory, use of theoretical models, and positing of constructs which mediate or moderate putative religious effects. Examples are given of both explicit and implicit uses of theory. Sources of theory for this field are then identified, emphasizing perspectives of sociologists and psychologists, and discussion is given to limitations of theory. Finally, reflections are offered as to why theory matters.
Jeff Levin and Berton H. Kaplan. (2010). “The Sorokin Multidimensional Inventory of Love Experience (SMILE): Development, Validation, and Religious Determinants.” Review of Religious Research 51:380-401.
This paper describes the development and validation of the Sorokin Multidimensional Inventory of Love Experience (SMILE), a 24-item scale based on the writing of sociologist Pitirim Sorokin. The SMILE contains six subscales of four items each, corresponding to what Sorokin termed the religious, ethical, ontological, biological, psychological, and social domains of love. Through confirmatory factor analysis, all factor loadings were found to be strong and statistically significant. A model specifying intercorrelations among all subscales exhibited good overall fit, although biological love was only weakly related to the other factors. Finally, through hierarchical OLS regression, religious measures were found to be significant determinants of scores on five of six subscales. This confirms Sorokin’s hypothesis that affirming the experience of love is in part a function of religiousness. The SMILE promises to broaden the scope of social research on love and to promote investigation of this neglected psychosocial construct.
This article provides an overview of psychiatric and mental health research on religion. First, conceptual models of religion and of mental health used throughout this literature are described. Second, published empirical research in this field is summarized, including findings from epidemiologic, clinical, and social and behavioral investigations. Third, promising theoretical perspectives for understanding a putative religion–mental health connection are elaborated. These are based on respective behavioral, biological, psychodynamic, and transpersonal interpretations of existing research findings.