HealthDay News — When it comes to dealing with illness, most Americans turn to a higher power for help, according to research published online April 13 in the Journal of Religion and Health.

“Outside of belief in God, there may be no more ubiquitous religious expression in the United States than use of healing prayer,” study author Jeff Levin, PhD, MPH, director of the program on religion and population health at Baylor University in Dallas, said in a Baylor news release.

While conducting a survey of 1,714 adults across the United States, the researchers found that 78.8% of Americans reported praying for healing for themselves at some point in their lives, and 87.4% have prayed for healing for others. In addition, 54.1% have asked for prayers for their health; 26.1% have given a “laying on of hands” for healing; and 53.0% have been part of a prayer group, prayer circle, or prayer chain.

“The most surprising finding is that more than a quarter of all Americans have practiced laying on of hands — and nearly 1 in 5 has done so on multiple occasions,” Levin said. The practice of laying on of hands has long been used by Christians and Jews as a means to ordain clergy and to bless people, but also to transmit physical healing, Levin explained. “Interestingly, most people who use prayer for healing do so alongside regular medical care, rather than as a substitution, as has been presumed up to now,” he added.

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