How believing in miracles can help, harm your health

Is it dangerous to believe in miracles? Yes, when it comes to matters of health, the Washington Post reports. A new study found that people who put their fate in the hands of God were less likely to seek treatment or pursue healthy options that could forestall illness, such as quitting smoking.

Yet scientists writing in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine also found that "belief in miracles was related to greater life satisfaction." That is because activities such as praying and reading the Bible help by "reducing the stress associated with chronic health problems and providing a sense of hope and optimism for the future." More than 4 in 5 Americans believes in miracles, with half saying they have experienced one, per the Post.

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Previous research has shown that evangelicals and religious African-Americans are more likely to cede control to God. In one study, 61 percent of black participants said God was in control of their cancer as opposed to 29 percent of whites.

But University of Michigan researchers who studied 2,948 people found that unless a patient is dying and beyond medical help, letting God decide a course of treatment is not likely to end well.

"Greater divine health deferral was associated with poorer symptoms of physical health," the authors write. They recommend finding a balance between divine and personal control, and encouraging religious leaders to promote the benefits of healthy choices.

They also say teaching that the body is God's gift may encourage people "to be more active in maintaining their own health because it is seen as a sacred duty." (Divine intervention was credited in part with saving a Florida teen.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: One More Health Concern: Belief in Miracles