Spirituality May Have Positive Impact on Mental Health

Researchers from the University of Missouri have found that spirituality may help improve mental health. Their findings have been published in the Journal of Religion and Health. The researchers questioned people from every major religious group. The participants were also asked about their physical and mental health.

The study concluded that people following any religion had better mental health. People belonging to a faith were found to be more outgoing and less likely to get stressed over minor interpersonal problems.

The researchers proposed a few reasons why religious beliefs may have a positive impact on people’s mental health by encouraging them to have a more positive outlook towards other people. According to the study, the ability to forgive others probably played the biggest factor. Religious practices encourage people to be more open-minded, forgiving and community oriented.

Dan Cohen is a University of Missouri professor of religious studies and one of the two authors of the study. Cohen said that spirituality has always been thought of as a spiritual trait. He argues that this study corroborates that point of view. People who are more spiritual tend to feel more connected their friends and family. They also have a more integrated sense of community with the rest of the world and a higher sense of purpose with their place in the universe.

Participating in various religious activities can encourage people to feel more connected with their religious communities. However, people’s participation in their community was not found to play a key role in their mental health. This finding was surprising to Cohen at first. However, it made sense to researchers afterwards. A person’s level of spirituality or outlook towards the world isn’t always correlated with their level of participation in community groups.

Previous studies have shown that spirituality has helped many people overcome major medical problems. Cohen said that a positive spiritual outlook appears to help people find the strength they need to deal with strokes, spinal cord injuries and other devastating health risks. Therefore, he said that it stands to reason that a high level of spirituality can give people the strength to overcome depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.

These findings could be beneficial for health care providers. Physicians may feel it is worthwhile to be cognizant of patients’ spiritual beliefs and find ways to incorporate them into their treatments plans. However, researchers will need to conduct additional research to determine whether or not the relationship between spirituality and mental health is simply a correlation or if one factor precipitates the other.

Kalen Smith

Kalen Smith is a professional Internet marketer, consumer researcher and writer. He has been a writer for Weight Loss Triumph and is the cofounder of the blog Great Paleo Diet Cookbooks, where he writes about the paleo diet and lifestyle.

3 thoughts on “Spirituality May Have Positive Impact on Mental Health

  • December 31, 2012 at 5:39 am

    I wish such studies did not equate spirituality with religion. There are multitudes who are spiritual, actively practice spirituality, and whose spirituality informs every part of their life, including their mental and physical health. None of these people are part of any of the culturally accepted forms of religion. 

    There has to be better criteria than attending services and similar groupings to identify ‘spirituality.’ Purpose and meaning, for instance. Having purpose and meaning as anchors of your life is indeed spiritual, and would serve as neutral identifiers, voiding the need to constantly rely on religion.

  • September 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Let’s face it, we are apparently spinning at an unbelievable speed through uncharted space on a giant chunk of rock. Most of us know that, but seldom do we acknowledge it. Faith makes meaning out of what could be seen as a meaningless journey to an unthinkable end. Could there be unseen laws and purpose at work? Let’s hope so. Anyone with a shred of faith should grab tight and hold on. Nothing is more valuable or more profound.

  • August 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Great article, Kalen,

    As you found in your research, many feel that the supportive relationships found in church fellowship likely lead to the health benefits of attending services. An attender’s fellowship with others, — their caring for another’s emotional, economic, and physical needs, is important. Yet, could there be something even more significant that enables attenders to experience such dramatic health benefits?

    Possibly, those consistently attending services experience greater health because they are expressing a greater degree of love, forgiveness, and patience, — all qualities that studies now show contribute to healthy outcomes.

    Are attendees able to express these health-giving qualities because, more than human niceties, they emanate from God? Could expressing these qualities keep attendees connected to God and therefore connected to health? Could a better understanding of God or a stronger sense of God’s presence be physically beneficial?

    In my years of active membership in Christian churches, I’m beginning to recognize that there is something to an attender’s relationship with God that enables him or her to experience health and longevity.

    I’ve asked myself often: If God has a role in an attender’s health, could there be a law of God behind the benefits found in the studies that suggest healthy outcomes from participating in spiritual or religious activities? Could these regular activities bring people under this law?


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