MELBOURNE: Communication with God or prayer can improve physical health, Australian researchers suggest.

The new findings were reported by researchers, who reviewed controversial scientific evidence on whether religious or spiritual prayer can boost a believer's emotional and physical well being.

The review, published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Sunday, shows that 74 per cent of Australians believe in a higher power, with many praying regularly as part of their worship.

"Some studies have shown a positive association between prayer and improved health outcomes," wrote lead author Marek Jantos, director of the Behavioural Medicine Institute in Adelaide.

Mr. Jantos, a clinical psychologist, said there were four ways prayer could have a positive effect on the body.

The first was through its "meditative" effects. He said prayer was a Western form of transcendental meditation that worked in a similar way, slowing the breath and lowering the heart rate and blood pressure, thereby enhancing physiological well-being.

It also boosted positivity and improved mood. Praying could also have a placebo effect on health. For instance, in a study of heart patients, those who were being prayed for by others made better health improvements than those who were not prayed for. PTI