According to a recent study most doctors believe in God and an afterlife. This conclusion apparently contradicts earlier research which showed that in general, people tend to become less religious as education and income levels rise.
The survey by Farr Curlin, a doctor and instructor at the University of Chicago, of 1,125 U.S. doctors, found that 76 percent believe in God and nearly 60 percent in some sort of afterlife.
Curlin, who oversaw the survey, says he was surprised, as the team did not realize physicians were this religious.
He says they suspect that people who combine an aptitude for science with an interest in religion and an affinity for public service are particularly attracted to medicine, as the responsibility to care for those who are suffering, and the rewards of helping those in need, resonate throughout most religious traditions.
The researchers also found that 90 percent of doctors said they attend religious services at least occasionally, and are more likely to describe themselves as 'spiritual' as distinct from religious, whereas for the general population, spirituality and religion appear to be more tightly connected.
They found that doctors and patients also differ on how they rely on God for help in coping with a major illness, as while most patients will look to God for strength, support and guidance, most doctors will instead try to make sense of the situation and decide what to do without relying on God.
Of the doctors surveyed, 5 percent were Hindu, 2 percent Muslim and 1 percent Buddhist, all much higher than those faiths are represented in the general population and in part reflecting the large number of foreign-born doctors who emigrate to the United States, the study said.
The report is published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.