Spirituality is Associated with Enhanced Well-Being
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“despite differences in specific rituals and beliefs among the world’s major religions, that being spiritual tended to improve someone’s health, regardless of his or her actual religion.” – Christopher Bergland
Religion and spirituality have been promulgated as solutions to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. What evidence is there that these claims are in fact true? The transcendent claims are untestable with the scientific method. But the practical claims are amenable to scientific analysis. There have been a number of studies of the influence of religiosity and spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.
In today’s Research News article “The Role of Spirituality and Religiosity in Subjective Well-Being of Individuals With Different Religious Status.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630357/), Villani and colleagues recruited adults online and had them complete an online questionnaire. They were measured for life satisfaction, positive and negative emotions, spirituality, including purpose, innerness, interconnection, and transcendence, and religiosity, including commitment, in-depth exploration, and reconsideration of commitment. Path analysis was used to investigate the interrelationships of these variables.
They found that the spirituality dimension of purpose was positively associated with life satisfaction and positive emotions while the dimension if innerness was negatively associated with negative emotions. This was found to be true regardless of the participants religiosity. They found that the religiosity dimension of commitment was also positively associated with and positive emotions regardless of the participants religiosity but with life satisfaction for only individuals who considered themselves religious and not individuals who were religiously uncertain. Further they found that the religiosity dimension of commitment was positively associated with and negative emotions for individuals who were religiously uncertain and negatively associated for individuals who considered themselves religious.
This study was correlational, so caution must be exercised in inferring causation. Nevertheless, the results suggest that being spiritual is associated with high levels of psychological well-being regardless of whether the individual is religious or uncertain. On the other hand, the results suggest that religiosity is associated with high levels of psychological well-being only for individuals who are religious, while for uncertain individuals, religious commitment actually is associated with poorer well-being.
Thus, spirituality is associated with enhanced well-being.
“Spirituality/Religion and its role in promoting physical and behavioral health has been embraced in many public health settings as an important tool to promote wellness.” – SAMHSA
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Villani, D., Sorgente, A., Iannello, P., & Antonietti, A. (2019). The Role of Spirituality and Religiosity in Subjective Well-Being of Individuals With Different Religious Status. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1525. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01525
Spirituality and religiosity have been found to be positive predictors of subjective well-being, even if results are not altogether consistent across studies. This mixed evidence is probably due to the inadequate operationalization of the constructs as well as the neglect of the moderation effect that the individuals’ religious status can have on the relation between spirituality/religiosity and subjective well-being. The current study aimed to investigate the relationship of spirituality and religiosity with subjective well-being (operationalized as both life satisfaction and balance between positive and negative affect) and to test whether differences exist according to individuals’ religious status (religious, non-religious, and uncertain). Data were collected from 267 Italian adults aged 18–77 (M = 36.68; SD = 15.13), mainly women (59.9%). In order to test the role of spirituality (operationalized as Purpose, Innerness, Interconnection, and Transcendence) and religiosity (operationalized as three dimensions of the religious identity: Commitment, In-depth Exploration, and Reconsideration of Commitment) in subjective well-being, two path analysis models were run, one for each predictor. To test the invariance of the two models across the individuals’ religious status, two multi-group models were run. The models concerning spirituality were tested on the entire sample, finding that spirituality had a positive impact on subjective well-being (except for the dimension of Interconnection) and that this relation is unaffected by the individual’s religious status. The models concerning religiosity were instead tested only on religious and uncertain, finding that the relationship between religiosity and subjective well-being changes across religious status. In particular, the main difference we found was that religious identity commitment positively predicted satisfaction with life among religious, but not among uncertain individuals. An interpretation of the results and their implications are discussed.