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O come, all ye faithful: a study on church syncope


… willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8)

Since historical times, fainting in church has been anecdotally common. Up to 40% of calls to emergency medical services on a Sunday morning may be associated with “church syncope”.1 Church syncope is often listed as a subtype of syncope among medical presentations, yet apart from circumstantial cases2 and one case report of syncope in the church choir,3 the epidemiology of church syncope has not been reported in the medical literature.

The church is considered a sacred place, with sanctity sometimes derived from the location where it is built — where a miracle or martyrdom allegedly took place or a holy person was buried, or by the location of a holy item placed within the church. Associated with this sanctity is the concept of sanctuary from intentional physical harm (eg, fugitives were immune to arrest in a church under English law from the fourth to the 17th century). Along the same lines, improved health outcomes and wellbeing from spirituality and the sanctity of the church have also been reported.4,5