The impact of indigenous healing activity: An empirical study of two fundamentalist churches

R. C. Ness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This paper describes the relationship between the form and frequency of religious activity within two fundamentalist churches and the emotional status of the participants. The data derive from a 13-month field study of all church activity witnin a Newfoundland coastal community where religiously-based healing rituals are a primary indigenous response to illness and general misfortune. Based on systematic observations of religious behaviors and responses to the Cornell Medical Index by all members of both churches, it was found in one church that the more frequently people engaged in religious activities of all types, the less likely they are to report symptoms of emotional distress. Significant variation was found between the churches and within the churches in terms of the psychological impact of types of religious activity. These variations are related to the sociocultural structure of healing efforts within the churches as well as to the patterned roles of male and female participants. The results are discussed in terms of current issues involving the cross-cultural evaluation of indigenous healing activity and future lines of research are outlined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-180
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume14 B
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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