However, senior author Holly Prigerson of Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said that as death approaches, the religious terminal patients' treatment often entails a lower quality of life in their final days.
The study involved 345 advanced cancer patients at seven hospitals nationwide. Participants were interviewed about their means of coping with the illness, their use of advance care planning tools such as living wills and durable power of attorney, and their preferences regarding end-of-life treatment.
An analysis of the data, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that patients identified as using religion to cope with their situation had nearly three times the odds of receiving life-prolonging care, in the form of being on a ventilator or receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation, in the final week of life.
"Recent research has shown that religion and spirituality are major sources of comfort and support for patients confronting advanced disease," Prigerson said in a statement.
"Our findings indicate that patients who turn to religion to cope in times of crisis, such as when facing death, are more likely to receive aggressive care when they die."