April 14, 2024


A nationwide survey has found that the least religious of all medical specialties in the US is psychiatry. "Something about psychiatry, perhaps its historical ties to psychoanalysis and the anti-religious views of the early analysts such as Sigmund Freud, seems to dissuade religious medical students from choosing to specialise in this field," said study author Farr Curlin, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "It also seems to discourage religious physicians from referring their patients to psychiatrists."

"Because psychiatrists take care of patients struggling with emotional, personal and relational problems," Curlin says, "the gap between the religiousness of the average psychiatrist and her average patient may make it difficult for them to connect on a human level."

Although 61% of all American doctors were either Protestant (39%) or Catholic (22%), only 37% of psychiatrists were Protestant (27%) or Catholic (10%). However, 29% were Jewish, compared to 13% of all doctors. About 17% of psychiatrists listed their religion as "none," compared to only 10% of all doctors.

Although Protestant physicians were only half as likely to send a patient to a psychiatrist, Jewish physicians were more likely to do so. Least likely were highly religious Protestants who attended church at least twice a month and looked to God for guidance "a great deal or quite a lot."