People prayed for their own health in greater numbers in 2007 than did in 2002, according to research published in the May issue of the APA journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

Comparing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2002 and 2007 National Health Interview Surveys for about 30,000 people in 2002 and about 23,000 in 2007, researchers found that use of health-related prayer had risen overall from 43 percent in 2002 to 49 percent in 2007.

In both data sets, women were more likely to report having prayed for their health than men. African Americans were more likely to have done so than Caucasians, and people who were married, educated beyond high school or had seen a change in their health, good or bad, within the past year were more likely than others to have used prayer in that way.

People with the highest incomes were 15 percent less likely to pray than those whose incomes were at the bottom of the scale, and -- interestingly -- people who exercised regularly were 25 percent less likely to pray for health than non-exercisers. All in all, though, the research found that people who prayed for their health were also most likely to take steps to protect their health, such as regularly seeing their doctors.

The study’s title refers to prayer as a “coping mechanism,” and in the text of the study prayer is called a mode of complementary medicine.

Two key points the research wasn’t designed to pin down: What form of prayer people conducted, and whether prayer typically preceded a health episode or vice versa.

Do you pray for your own health or for that of your friends and loved ones? Does your experience suggest that prayer really can help? Please share your stories.