A new study finds that a spiritual relationship helps victims of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) rehabilitate from their injury.
The study, by Brigid Waldron-Perrine, Ph.D., and Lisa J. Rapport, Ph.D., is published in the journal Rehabilitation Psychology.
Traumatic brain injury is a disruption of normal brain function after a head injury and affects 1.7 million Americans annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sadly, the long-term effects of TBI include a heightened risk for mental and physical problems. These problems can significantly slow rehabilitation.
“Among healthy adults, religion and spirituality have shown strong association with improved life satisfaction and physical and mental health outcomes,” said Waldron-Perrine.
To expand knowledge on the effects of religion and recovery form TBI, Waldron-Perrine interviewed and completed neuropsychological tests on 88 individuals diagnosed with TBI victims, most of whom were male, African-American Christians.
Participants also completed a neuropsychological measure of their cognitive abilities. A significant other of each TBI victim also participated and reported on the injured individual’s functional status.
Waldron-Perrine found that most participants who reported higher levels of religious well-being (a connection to a higher power) had better emotional and physical rehabilitation outcomes.
Interestingly, public religious activities or practice and existential well-being – a sense that life has a purpose apart from any religious reference – did not have the same effect.
This “intriguing” finding, Waldron-Perrine said, may be due to the fact that TBI victims lack full control of their ability to participate in public religious practice.
“They often must rely on others for scheduling and transportation to social events, so their public religious participation does not wholly reflect their true use of religious resources,” she said.
As expected on the basis of previous studies, social support was related to positive physical and mental rehabilitation results. This, Waldron-Perrine said, is consistent with other research studies linking religious social support to positive health outcomes in other populations. But even when Waldron-Perrine adjusted for social support, religious well-being still stood as a unique and strong predictor of positive health outcomes in TBI patients.
“Individuals cope with the tools available to them, and perhaps especially for those with limited means and few alternatives, religion can take on great power as a psychosocial resource,” Waldron-Perrine said.
Source: Wayne State University