By Emily Lutz, MNN contributorReligious beliefs and practices can affect the health of people of faith, but they can also have negative effects on health, according to a study published Thursday.
Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois found that Muslim religious traditions can lead to more severe infections and complications than those of other religious groups.
“A religious background, even among the fastest-growing religious groups, may increase the risk of a serious infection,” Dr. Anushka Srivastava, the study’s lead author, said in a news release.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The researchers studied a cluster of health-care facilities in the U.S. where the majority of the health care workers are Muslim.
They found that religious practices and practices that are religiously rooted can cause more severe complications, including more infections and more deaths than other religious backgrounds, the release said.
“This suggests that in many ways, our understanding of religious traditions may be biased,” Srivashava said.
The findings suggest that, as more and more Americans choose to follow a religion, their health and well-being may be affected, Srivasra said.
Religious practices, including fasting, prayer, meditation, and reading scriptures, are important for many Muslims because they help them focus on God, she said.
But in the case of Ebola, Sivasra stressed that it is not only the faith of those who adhere to those practices that can be problematic.
“It is also the culture that they have,” she said, adding that she hopes the findings will help people understand how religious practices can have negative impacts on people’s health.
Sivasha is a professor of public health at the University at Buffalo, where she serves on the faculty of the College of Public Health.
She is also a fellow at the Urban Institute, a think tank that studies the impact of religion and social change on U.s. society.