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Spirituality Linked to Mental Health

ChurchA new study finds that women who had stopped being religiously active were more than three times more likely to have suffered generalized anxiety and alcohol abuse/dependence than women who reported always having been active.

“One’s lifetime pattern of religious service attendance can be related to psychiatric illness,” says Temple University’s Joanna Maselko, Sc.D., an assistant professor of public health and co-author of the study, which appears in the January issue of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Conversely, men who stopped being religiously active were less likely to suffer major depression when compared to men who had always been religiously active.

Maselko offers one possible explanation for the gender differences in the relationship between religious activity and mental health.

“Women are simply more integrated into the social networks of their religious communities. When they stop attending religious services, they lose access to that network and all its potential benefits. Men may not be as integrated into the religious community in the first place and so may not suffer the negative consequences of leaving,” Maselko said.

The study expands on previous research in the field by analyzing the relationship between mental health — anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence or abuse — and spirituality using current and past levels, said Maselko, who conducted the research when she was at Harvard University.

In the study sample, comprising 718 adults, a majority of men and women changed their level of religious activity between childhood and adulthood, which was critical information for the researchers.

“A person’s current level of spirituality is only part of the story. We can only get a better understanding of the relationship between health and spirituality by knowing a person’s lifetime religious history,” Maselko said.

Out of the 278 women in the group, 39 percent (N=109) had always been religiously active and 51 percent (N=141) had not been active since childhood. About 7 percent of the women who have always been religiously active met the criteria for generalized anxiety disorder compared to 21 percent of women who had stopped being religiously active.

“Everyone has some spirituality, whether it is an active part of their life or not; whether they are agnostic or atheist or just ‘non-practicing.’ These choices potentially have health implications, similar to the way that one’s social networks do,” Maselko said.

Source: Temple University

Spirituality Linked to Mental Health

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Spirituality Linked to Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/01/02/spirituality-linked-to-mental-health/1725.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.