Spirituality is Associated with the Long-Term Psychological Health of Cancer Survivors

Spirituality is Associated with the Long-Term Psychological Health of Cancer Survivors

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“spiritual or religious beliefs and practices create a positive mental attitude that may help a patient feel better and improve the well-being of family caregivers. Spiritual and religious well-being may help improve health and quality of life.” – National Cancer Institute

 

Surviving cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing experience. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotions and stress of a surviving cancer is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer.

 

Religion and spirituality become much more important to people when they survive cancer. It is thought that people take comfort in the spiritual when facing mortality. Hence, spirituality may be useful for the survivors of cancer to cope with their illness and the psychological difficulties resulting from the disease. Thus, there is a need to study the relationships of spirituality on the long-term psychological health of cancer survivors.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Influence of Daily Spiritual Experiences and Gender on Subjective Well-Being Over Time in Cancer Survivors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7500286/ ) Rudaz and colleagues garnered data from the longitudinal Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study

of adults that was collected in 2005 and again in 2015. They selected participants who reported having survived cancer and extracted data on spiritual and religious coping, daily spiritual experiences, life satisfaction, positive emotions, and negative emotions.

 

They report that for both men and women the higher the levels of spiritual experiences at baseline the higher the levels of religious coping, life satisfaction, and positive emotions, and the lower the levels of negative emotions at baseline and 10 years later. In addition, they found that spiritual experiences at baseline moderated the association of life satisfaction at baseline with life satisfaction 10 years later such that participants with low life satisfaction at baseline had a greater increase in life satisfaction 10 years later when they were higher in spiritual experiences. Also, they found that for men but not women that spiritual experiences at baseline moderated the association of positive emotions at baseline with positive emotions 10 years later such that men with low positive emotions at baseline had a greater increase in positive emotions 10 years later when they were higher in spiritual experiences.

 

These results are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. But they show that cancer survivors having high levels of spirituality is associated with better psychological health and this is maintained over time. They also show that spirituality is associated with better psychological health 10 years later in cancer survivors who were low in life satisfaction and positive emotions. Hence, spirituality is important for the psychological health of cancer survivors and this lasts over decades.

 

So, spirituality is associated with the long-term psychological health of cancer survivors.

 

“Patients reporting greater overall religiousness and spirituality also reported better physical health, greater ability to perform their usual daily tasks, and fewer physical symptoms of cancer and treatment.” – Science Daily

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Rudaz, M., Ledermann, T., & Grzywacz, J. G. (2019). The Influence of Daily Spiritual Experiences and Gender on Subjective Well-Being Over Time in Cancer Survivors. Archive for the psychology of religion = Archiv fur Religionspsychologie, 41(2), 159–171. https://doi.org/10.1177/0084672419839800

 

Abstract

Cancer survivors are at risk for poor subjective well-being, but the potential beneficial effect of daily spiritual experiences is unknown. Using data from the second and third wave of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, we examined the extent to which daily spiritual experiences at baseline moderate the association between subjective well-being at baseline and approximately 10 years later in cancer survivors (n = 288). Regression analyses, controlled for age, educational attainment, and religious/spiritual coping, showed that daily spiritual experiences moderated the association between life satisfaction at baseline and follow-up. Specifically, high spiritual experiences enhanced life satisfaction over time in cancer survivors with low life satisfaction at baseline. Also, daily spiritual experiences moderated the association between positive affect at baseline and follow-up, though this moderating effect was different for women and men. No moderating effect emerged for negative affect.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7500286/

 

Post-Traumatic Growth and Religiosity Increase During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Post-Traumatic Growth and Religiosity Increase During the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Our stress lowers when we give our days ahead to a spiritual presence that will be with us ― one that never leaves. Leaning into one’s faith allows room for building a stronger sense of peace . . . and discover a spiritual awakening and divine love that will overpower any real or imagined quarantine we will experience.” – Shar Burgess

 

Modern living is stressful under the best of conditions. But with the COVID-19 pandemic the levels of stress have been markedly increased. These conditions markedly increase anxiety. This is true for everyone but especially for people with pre-existing conditions that makes them particularly vulnerable. The COVID-19 pandemic has also produced considerable economic stress, with loss of employment and steady income. For the poor this extends to high levels of food insecurity. This not only produces anxiety about the present but also for the future. It is important for people to engage in practices that can help them control their responses to the stress and their levels of anxiety. Spirituality, a sense of inner peace and harmony, and religiosity are known to help with a wide range of physical and psychological problems. So, it would make sense to investigate the relationship of spirituality and religiosity with the ability to cope with COVID-19.

 

In today’s Research News article “Finding Meaning in Hell. The Role of Meaning, Religiosity and Spirituality in Posttraumatic Growth During the Coronavirus Crisis in Spain.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.567836/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1481182_69_Psycho_20201112_arts_A ) Prieto-Ursúa and colleagues recruited adults in Madrid, Spain during the Coronavirus pandemic and had them complete a questionnaire online that measured spirituality, religiosity, purpose in life; including general meaning, and establishment of specific goals, post-traumatic growth; including personal, interpersonal, social, and socio-political growth, and experiences with COVID-19.

 

They found that women had greater post-traumatic growth than men. People who knew someone affected by COVID-19 had significantly higher post-traumatic growth of all forms and religiosity and those who had experienced COVID-19 had even greater growth and religiosity. They also found that general meaning in life was associated with greater post-traumatic growth while having specific goals was not. In addition, they found that religiosity was associated with overall growth while spirituality was associated with personal growth once meaning was controlled for.

 

It needs to be kept in mind that these findings are correlational making conclusions regarding causation problematic. It’s also the case that there is no comparison condition. Of course, having a control group without COVID-19 would be practically impossible. This.is a natural experiment, taking advantage of a current very unusual event. We can learn from it but must be careful not to form strong conclusions.

 

Speculatively, these results suggest that trauma is associated with higher levels of growth especially in women. Trauma appears to increase religiosity and religiosity appear to promote growth. It is possible that religion provides a refuge to help with coping with the trauma, Spirituality, on the other hand, appears to be associated with greater meaning in life and this in turn is associated with greater personal growth.

 

The findings suggest that trauma can promote personal, interpersonal, social, and socio-political growth. They also show that having meaning in life is important for that growth. In the face of a pandemic, rather than withdrawing, people strengthen. This attests to the resilience of the human spirit.

 

So, post-traumatic growth and religiosity increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“Sometimes when we experience grief, we feel shocked, anxious, fearful, sad, powerless, angry, or helpless. What we need to remember is that all these feelings and many others are normal. Being able to acknowledge where we are emotionally and spiritually can be empowering.” – Together

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Prieto-Ursúa M and Jódar R (2020) Finding Meaning in Hell. The Role of Meaning, Religiosity and Spirituality in Posttraumatic Growth During the Coronavirus Crisis in Spain. Front. Psychol. 11:567836. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.567836

 

ABSTRACT

Coronavirus has blighted our world, hitting some countries harder than others. Morbidity and mortality rates make Madrid one of the worst affected places so far in the wake of the coronavirus. The aim of this study was to analyze the presence of post-traumatic growth during the coronavirus crisis and to understand the contribution of meaning, religiosity, and spirituality to such growth; 1,492 people completed the questionnaire; N = 1,091 residents in Madrid were selected for the study. We assessed the personal experience of COVID-19, the Spirituality, Religiosity, Meaning trough Purpose in Life-10 test, and Posttraumatic Growth (Community Post-Traumatic Growth Scale). Results showed significant differences for all measures of growth, with higher values in women. Sex and direct impact of COVID-19 accounted for 4.4% of the variance of growth. The different dimensions of meaning contribute differently to growth. Only religiosity was associated with total growth when meaning was included in the model. This same pattern of results is obtained in models predicting interpersonal and social growth. However, in predicting personal growth, it is spirituality that predicts this type of growth once meaning has been previously controlled for, while religiosity fails to reach a statistically significant level. Our results reflect the interest in maintaining the distinction between spirituality and religiosity, their different roles in traumatic growth and the different dimensions on which each has an effect. Finally, it confirms the importance of meaning in post-traumatic growth, especially the dimension of life goals and purposes.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.567836/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1481182_69_Psycho_20201112_arts_A

 

Spirituality is Associated with Better Psychological Health of Adolescents with Cancer

Spirituality is Associated with Better Psychological Health of Adolescents with Cancer

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Spirituality plays a significant role for adolescents with cancer as it contributes to increased comfort and calmness, and better coping mechanisms when confronted with the illness, which indirectly improves the adolescent’s quality of life.” – Sembiring Lina Mahayati

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis. Adolescents with cancer are particularly vulnerable with high levels of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and pain interference.

 

Religion and spirituality become much more important to people when they’re diagnosed with cancer or when living with cancer. It is thought that people take comfort in the spiritual when facing mortality. Hence, spirituality and mindfulness may be useful tools for the survivors of cancer to cope with their illness. Thus, there is a need to study the relationships of spirituality on the ability of adolescent cancer survivors to positively adjust to their situation.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7298609/ ) Grossoehme and colleagues recruited adolescents, aged 14 to 21 years, who were diagnosed with cancer. They had them complete measures of spirituality, feeling God’s presence; praying privately; attending religious services; identifying as religious; identifying as spiritual, emotional distress–anxiety; emotional distress–depressive symptoms; fatigue; and pain interference, health-related quality of life

 

They found that the higher the levels of feeling God’s presence and identifying as a very religious person the lower the levels of anxiety, depressive symptoms, and fatigue. Structural equation modelling revealed that the levels of feeling God’s presence and identifying as a very religious person also were indirectly associated with anxiety, depressive symptoms, and fatigue via a positive association with a sense of meaning and peace. That is, the greater the feelings God’s presence and religiosity the greater the feelings of peace and meaningfulness in life and these feelings were in turn negatively associated with negative emotional states.

 

These results are correlational and as such no conclusions about causation can be definitively made. But the results clearly show that there are relationships between being spiritual and religious and better emotional states in adolescent cancer victims. They also suggest that this relationship is mediated by feelings of meaningfulness and peace. It could be speculated that these relationships occur due to causal connections and interpreted that being spiritual produces a state of peacefulness and meaning in life that counteracts the negative emotions associated with cancer. It remains for future research to determine if increasing spirituality would lead to better emotional adjustments to a cancer diagnosis.

 

Hence, spirituality is associated with better psychological health of adolescents with cancer.

 

As is true with older cancer survivors, spirituality is related to many aspects of well-being for AYA survivors, but relations are more consistent for meaning/peace and struggle.” – Crystal Park

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Grossoehme, D. H., Friebert, S., Baker, J. N., Tweddle, M., Needle, J., Chrastek, J., Thompkins, J., Wang, J., Cheng, Y. I., & Lyon, M. E. (2020). Association of Religious and Spiritual Factors With Patient-Reported Outcomes of Anxiety, Depressive Symptoms, Fatigue, and Pain Interference Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Cancer. JAMA network open, 3(6), e206696. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.6696

 

Key Points

Question

Among adolescents and young adults with cancer, is there an association between spirituality and patient-reported outcomes, and are these outcomes associated with a sense of meaning, peace, and comfort provided by faith?

Findings

In this cross-sectional study of 126 adolescents and young adults with cancer, structural equation modeling revealed that meaning and peace were associated with aspects of spirituality and religiousness as well as anxiety, depressive, and fatigue symptoms.

Meaning

In this study, participants’ sense of meaning and peace was associated with religiousness and with anxiety and depression, possibly representing an underappreciated intervention target.

Question

Among adolescents and young adults with cancer, is there an association between spirituality and patient-reported outcomes, and are these outcomes associated with a sense of meaning, peace, and comfort provided by faith?

Findings

In this cross-sectional study of 126 adolescents and young adults with cancer, structural equation modeling revealed that meaning and peace were associated with aspects of spirituality and religiousness as well as anxiety, depressive, and fatigue symptoms.

Meaning

In this study, participants’ sense of meaning and peace was associated with religiousness and with anxiety and depression, possibly representing an underappreciated intervention target.

Go to:

Abstract

Importance

The associations of spiritual and religious factors with patient-reported outcomes among adolescents with cancer are unknown.

Objective

To model the association of spiritual and religious constructs with patient-reported outcomes of anxiety, depressive symptoms, fatigue, and pain interference.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This cross-sectional study used baseline data, collected from 2016 to 2019, from an ongoing 5-year randomized clinical trial being conducted at 4 tertiary-referral pediatric medical centers in the US. A total of 366 adolescents were eligible for the clinical trial, and 126 were randomized; participants had to be aged 14 to 21 years at enrollment and be diagnosed with any form of cancer. Exclusion criteria included developmental delay, scoring greater than 26 on the Beck Depression Inventory II, non-English speaking, or unaware of cancer diagnosis.

Exposures

Spiritual experiences, values, and beliefs; religious practices; and overall self-ranking of spirituality’s importance.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Variables were taken from the Brief Multidimensional Measurement of Religiousness/Spirituality (ie, feeling God’s presence, daily prayer, religious service attendance, being very religious, and being very spiritual) and the spiritual well-being subscales of the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy (meaning/peace and faith). Predefined outcome variables were anxiety, depressive symptoms, fatigue, and pain interference from Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System pediatric measures.

Results

A total of 126 individuals participated (72 [57.1%] female participants; 100 [79.4%] white participants; mean [SD] age, 16.9 [1.9] years). Structural equation modeling showed that meaning and peace were inversely associated with anxiety (β = –7.94; 95% CI, –12.88 to –4.12), depressive symptoms (β = –10.49; 95% CI, –15.92 to –6.50), and fatigue (β = –8.90; 95% CI, –15.34 to –3.61). Feeling God’s presence daily was indirectly associated with anxiety (β = –3.37; 95% CI, –6.82 to –0.95), depressive symptoms (β = –4.50; 95% CI, –8.51 to –1.40), and fatigue (β = –3.73; 95% CI, –8.03 to –0.90) through meaning and peace. Considering oneself very religious was indirectly associated with anxiety (β = –2.81; 95% CI, –6.06 to –0.45), depressive symptoms (β = −3.787; 95% CI, –7.68 to –0.61), and fatigue (β = –3.11, 95% CI, –7.31 to –0.40) through meaning and peace. Considering oneself very spiritual was indirectly associated with anxiety (β = 2.11; 95% CI, 0.05 to 4.95) and depression (β = 2.8, 95% CI, 0.07 to 6.29) through meaning and peace. No associations were found between spiritual scales and pain interference.

Conclusions and Relevance

In this study, multiple facets of spirituality and religiousness were associated with anxiety, depression, and fatigue, all of which were indirectly associated with the participant’s sense of meaning and peace, which is a modifiable process. Although these results do not establish a causal direction, they do suggest palliative interventions addressing meaning-making, possibly including a spiritual or religious dimension, as a novel focus for intervention development.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7298609/Importance

 

Spirituality but not Religious Affiliation is Associated with Well-Being in Heart Failure Patients

Spirituality but not Religious Affiliation is Associated with Well-Being in Heart Failure Patients

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Spirituality does help heart failure patients do better. . . The secret? Spirituality leads to gratitude.” – Paul Mills

 

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer. A myriad of treatments have been developed for heart disease including a variety of surgical procedures and medications. In addition, lifestyle changes have proved to be effective including quitting smoking, weight reduction, improved diet, physical activity, and reducing stresses. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, 60% of cardiovascular disease patients decline to alter these lifestyle factors, making these patients at high risk for another attack.

 

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a major type of cardiovascular disease. “CHF is a chronic progressive condition that affects the pumping power of your heart muscles. While often referred to simply as “heart failure,” CHF specifically refers to the stage in which fluid builds up around the heart and causes it to pump inefficiently” (Healthline). Heart failure is a very serious life-threatening condition. About 5.7 million adults in the United States have congestive heart failure. One in 9 deaths include heart failure as a contributing cause. The seriousness of heart failure is underscored by the fact that about half of people who develop heart failure die within 5 years of diagnosis. Hence, effective treatment is very important. Spirituality, a sense of inner peace and harmony, and religiosity are known to help with a wide range of physical and psychological problems. So, it would make sense to investigate the relationship of spirituality and religiosity to the symptoms of heart failure.

 

In today’s Research News article “Is Belonging to a Religious Organization Enough? Differences in Religious Affiliation Versus Self-ratings of Spirituality on Behavioral and Psychological Variables in Individuals with Heart Failure.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7349115/) Saiz and colleagues recruited heart failure patients who had the diagnosis for at least 3 months. They completed measures of religious affiliation, spirituality, anxiety, depression, positive and negative emotions, anger, satisfaction with life, physical symptoms, sleep, fatigue, and self-efficacy for people with heart disease.

 

They found that spirituality was associated with significantly lower anxiety, depression, negative emotions, anger, and fatigue, and higher levels of positive emotions, sleep quality, satisfaction with life, and self-efficacy. There were no significant differences on these measures between patients who were affiliated with a religion and those that were not.

 

The study was correlational and as such caution must be exercised in drawing causal conclusions. Nevertheless, the results clearly show that heart failure patients who are spiritual have significantly better psychological and physical well-being than those who were not spiritual. Interestingly, simply being religious did not make a difference. The important factor was spirituality.

 

For the present study spirituality is defined as “a complex and multidimensional part of the human experience-our inner belief system. It helps individuals search for the meaning and purpose of life, and it helps them experience hope, love, inner peace, comfort, and support, being the experiences of meaning in life and connectedness, spirituality’s central elements.” It would appear that providing meaning in life and connectedness are very important for heart failure patients. Heart failure can make one’s mortality very clear. Spirituality but not religiosity would appear to help in dealing with the psychosocial consequences of this realization.

 

So, spirituality but not religious affiliation is associated with well-being in heart failure patients.

 

The present qualitative research showed that spirituality is a key for patients with chronic heart failure to better cope with the disease and deal with their multiple problems.” – Parvin Mangolian Shahrbabaki

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Saiz, J., Pung, M. A., Wilson, K. L., Pruitt, C., Rutledge, T., Redwine, L., Taub, P. R., Greenberg, B. H., & Mills, P. J. (2020). Is Belonging to a Religious Organization Enough? Differences in Religious Affiliation Versus Self-ratings of Spirituality on Behavioral and Psychological Variables in Individuals with Heart Failure. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 8(2), 129. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8020129

 

Abstract

In the United States, heart failure (HF) affects approximately 6.5 million adults. While studies show that individuals with HF often suffer from adverse symptoms such as depression and anxiety, studies also show that these symptoms can be at least partially offset by the presence of spiritual wellbeing. In a sample of 327 men and women with AHA/ACC classification Stage B HF, we found that more spirituality in patients was associated with better clinically-related symptoms such as depressed mood and anxiety, emotional variables (affect, anger), well-being (optimism, satisfaction with life), and physical health-related outcomes (fatigue, sleep quality). These patients also showed better self-efficacy to maintain cardiac function. Simply belonging to a religious organization independent of spiritualty, however, was not a reliable predictor of health-related benefits. In fact, we observed instances of belonging to a religious organization unaccompanied by parallel spiritual ratings, which appeared counterproductive.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7349115/

 

Religion/Spirituality Overall Increases HIV Prevention Behaviors

Religion/Spirituality Overall Increases HIV Prevention Behaviors

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“spirituality plays a critical role in the prognosis of HIV in many patients. The type of spiritual beliefs and practices determines whether spirituality is a protective or risk factor to the progression of HIV.” – Joni Utley

 

More than 35 million people worldwide and 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection. These include a significant number of children and adolescents. In 1996, the advent of the protease inhibitor and the so-called cocktail changed the prognosis for HIV. Since this development a 20-year-old infected with HIV can now expect to live on average to age 69. Even with these treatment advances it is still essential to prevent the transmission of HIV in the first place. There are a number of prevention techniques including drugs, condom use, HIV testing, reducing the number of sexual partners, and reducing intravenous drug use. But, in order for these activities to be effective, the individual must actively engage in them.

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health. Spirituality and religion, however, have a complex relationship with HIV prevention activities. It can be supportive in encouraging morals, norms, structures and institutions that can positively affect the individual’s behavior. On the other hand, religious strictures regarding sexuality can interfere with HIV prevention by discouraging behaviors such as condom use.

 

A number of research studies have been conducted on the effects of religion/spirituality on HIV prevention behaviors. So, it makes sense to step back and review what has been learned about the effects of religion/spirituality on the prevention of HIV transmission. In today’s Research News article “Religion, faith, and spirituality influences on HIV prevention activities: A scoping review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7297313/) Vigliotti and colleagues review and summarize the published scientific research on the effects of religion/spirituality on HIV prevention. They identified 29 published peer-reviewed research studies.

 

They report that the majority of studies found that attendance at religious services, religiosity/spirituality, and religion were significantly associated with increased use of condoms and increased HIV testing except in the cases where their religious beliefs and values related to sex and sexuality were against it. Hence, the published research supports the contention that for the most part religion/spirituality improves the likelihood that the individual will engage in behaviors that contribute to the prevention of HIV transmission. This is tempered, however, with the facts that some forms of religion/spirituality incorporate norms and values regarding sexuality that tend to interfere with engaging in behaviors that reduce the prevention of HIV transmission.

 

These findings were correlative and as such no conclusions about causation can be reached. It is difficult to perform manipulative studies to determine causation so this correlative evidence may be the best available. In addition, many of the studies employed weak designs that included the possibility of confounding. As a result, care must be taken in reaching conclusions regarding the effects of religion/spirituality on HIV prevention.

 

So, religion/spirituality overall increases HIV prevention behaviors.

 

overcoming spiritual guilt” is a factor in helping HIV-positive people stay healthy, widespread stigma and condemnation may have ushered those people more quickly toward death.” – Emma Green

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Vigliotti, V., Taggart, T., Walker, M., Kusmastuti, S., & Ransome, Y. (2020). Religion, faith, and spirituality influences on HIV prevention activities: A scoping review. PloS one, 15(6), e0234720. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234720

 

Abstract

Introduction

Strategies to increase uptake of next-generation biomedical prevention technologies (e.g., long-acting injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)) can benefit from understanding associations between religion, faith, and spirituality (RFS) and current primary HIV prevention activities (e.g., condoms and oral PrEP) along with the mechanisms which underlie these associations.

Methods

We searched PubMed, Embase, Academic Search Premier, Web of Science, and Sociological Abstracts for empirical articles that investigated and quantified relationships between RFS and primary HIV prevention activities outlined by the United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services: condom use, HIV and STI testing, number of sexual partners, injection drug use treatment, medical male circumcision, and PrEP. We included articles in English language published between 2000 and 2020. We coded and analyzed studies based on a conceptual model. We then developed summary tables to describe the relation between RFS variables and the HIV prevention activities and any underlying mechanisms. We used CiteNetExplorer to analyze citation patterns.

Results

We identified 2881 unique manuscripts and reviewed 29. The earliest eligible study was published in 2001, 41% were from Africa and 48% were from the U.S. RFS measures included attendance at religious services or interventions in religious settings; religious and/or spirituality scales, and measures that represent the influence of religion on behaviors. Twelve studies included multiple RFS measures. Twenty-one studies examined RFS in association with condom use, ten with HIV testing, nine with number of sexual partners, and one with PrEP. Fourteen (48%) documented a positive or protective association between all RFS factors examined and one or more HIV prevention activities. Among studies reporting a positive association, beliefs and values related to sexuality was the most frequently observed mechanism. Among studies reporting negative associations, behavioral norms, social influence, and beliefs and values related to sexuality were observed equally. Studies infrequently cited each other.

Conclusion

More than half of the studies in this review reported a positive/protective association between RFS and HIV prevention activities, with condom use being the most frequently studied, and all having some protective association with HIV testing behaviors. Beliefs and values related to sexuality are possible mechanisms that could underpin RFS-related HIV prevention interventions. More studies are needed on PrEP and spirituality/subjective religiosity.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7297313/

 

Lower Depression is Associated with Buddhism in Thailand

Lower Depression is Associated with Buddhism in Thailand

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The lay life of Thai Buddhism focuses on living ethically in the worldly life. While it is okay to enjoy the conveniences and joys of the material world, one should live ethically and not cause suffering to others. Lay people should also still be mindful of the law of impermanence and that all things must come to an end. The key to true happiness comes from within, through personal practice, not through material enjoyment.” – Nicholas Liusuwan

 

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. A growing body of studies, however, have suggested that Western religious practices may be contributing to depression. But there is very little research on Eastern religious practices, such as Buddhism and its effects on depression.

 

In today’s Research News article “Buddhism and Depressive Symptoms among Married Women in Urban Thailand.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7037506/), Xu and colleagues recruited a multistage cross sectional sample of urban Thai adults and had them complete a questionnaire measuring sociodemographic characteristics, depression, religious preference, and frequency of participation in religious practices.

 

They found that 91% of the respondents were identified as Buddhist. They also found that Buddhist participants reported significantly lower levels of depression than the non-Buddhist participants. In addition, they found that the greater the frequency of participation in Buddhist practices the lower the levels of depression.

 

It should be kept in mind that the present study was correlational and causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, the results suggest that in and Eastern society, Thailand, the practice of Buddhism is associated with better mental health. Studies in Western cultures have generally found that being spiritual has greater positive benefits for mental health than being religious. The fact that the frequency of Buddhist practice was associated with lower depression suggests that spirituality might also here be the most impactful factor on mental health. Additionally, Buddhist practice frequently employs meditation, chanting, and other techniques that promote mindfulness. Since, mindfulness is associated with lower levels of depression, it is possible that the present findings of lower depression in Buddhist practitioners was due to these practices promoting mindfulness.

 

So, lower depression is associated with Buddhism in Thailand.

 

In their long history of existence the Thais seem to have been predominantly Buddhists, at least ever since they came into contact with the tenets of Buddhism. All the Thai kings in the recorded history of present-day Thailand have been adherents of Buddhism. The country’s constitution specifies that the King of Thailand must be a Buddhist and the Upholder of Buddhism.” – Karuna Kusalasaya

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Study Summary

 

Xu, T., Xu, X., Sunil, T., & Sirisunyaluck, B. (2020). Buddhism and Depressive Symptoms among Married Women in Urban Thailand. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(3), 761. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030761

 

Abstract

A growing body of research has documented salutary associations between religious involvement and poor mental health outcomes, such as depressive symptoms and psychological distress. However, little scholarly attention has been given to the association between Buddhism, a non-Western religious faith, and depressive symptomatology in Thailand. Using random survey data collected from urban Thailand, this study examines the association between religious involvement and depressive symptoms among married women in Bangkok. Findings from multiple linear regression models reveal that (1) Buddhist respondents report significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms than their non-Buddhist counterparts, (2) the frequency of participation in religious activities is significantly and inversely associated with the level of depressive symptoms, and (3) the inverse association between religious participation and depressive symptoms is more salient for Buddhists who frequently practice their faith (i.e., significant interaction effect). Research limitations and directions for future research are discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7037506/

 

Religious and Spiritual Coping Reduces the Risk of Hypertension.

Religious and Spiritual Coping Reduces the Risk of Hypertension.

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Scientific literature have recorded that spiritual well-being is associated with better physical and mental health, according to psycho-neuro-immune models of health. Spirituality and religion can help patients, their families and caregivers dealing with illness and other stressful life events.” – Marcelo Saad

 

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) is an insidious disease because there are no overt symptoms. The individual feels fine. But it can be deadly as more than 360,000 American deaths, roughly 1,000 deaths each day, had high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause. In addition, hypertension markedly increases the risk heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.  It is also a very common disorder with about 70 million American adults (29%) having high blood pressure and only about half (52%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control. Hypertension is more prevalent in African American populations.

 

High blood pressure, because it doesn’t have any primary symptoms, is usually only diagnosed by direct measurement of blood pressure usually by a health care professional. When hypertension is chronically present over three quarters of patients are treated with antihypertensive drugs. But these medications often have adverse side effects. So, patients feel lousy when taking the drugs, but fine when they’re not. So, compliance is a major issue with many patients not taking the drugs regularly or stopping entirely. Obviously, there is a need for alternative to drug treatments for hypertension.

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental healthReligiosity is also known to help with a wide range of physical and psychological problems. So, it would make sense to investigate the influence of spirituality and religiosity on hypertension in African Americans.

 

In today’s Research News article “). Religious and Spiritual Coping and Risk of Incident Hypertension in the Black Women’s Health Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6230974/), Cozier and colleagues performed a secondary analysis of the data provided by a large U.S. national sample of adult black women. The women had completed a large array of measures. But for the present study measures were extracted of religion/spirituality, positive religious coping, perceived stress, depression, and experiences of racism. They were also measured 8 years later for the incidence of hypertension.

 

They found that women who reported high levels of religion/spirituality were older, more educated, less likely to smoke or drink, lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and with lower levels of perceived stress. Significantly, they also found that women high in positive religious coping had a significantly lower risk of developing hypertension 8 years later. This association was strongest in women with the highest levels of perceived stress.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that the development of hypertension is associated with stress and that positive religious coping can mitigate the effects of stress on blood pressure. Positive religious coping involves using “religious and spiritual resources to cope with and adapt to stressful life circumstances.” Hence spiritualty and religiosity can promote better health in black women by providing them with methods to cope with the stresses in their lives.

 

So, reduce the risk of hypertension with religious/spiritual coping.

 

Religious coping now represents a key variable of interest in research on health outcomes, not only because many individuals turn to their faith in times of illness, but also because studies have frequently found that religious coping is associated with desirable health outcomes.” – Jeremey Cummings

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Study Summary

 

Cozier, Y. C., Yu, J., Wise, L. A., VanderWeele, T. J., Balboni, T. A., Argentieri, M. A., … Shields, A. E. (2018). Religious and Spiritual Coping and Risk of Incident Hypertension in the Black Women’s Health Study. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 52(12), 989–998. doi:10.1093/abm/kay001

 

Abstract

Background

The few studies of the relationship between religion and/or spirituality (R/S) and hypertension are conflicting. We hypothesized that R/S may reduce the risk of hypertension by buffering adverse physiological effects of stress.

Methods

We prospectively assessed the association of R/S with hypertension within the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), a cohort study initiated in 1995 that follows participants through biennial questionnaires. The 2005 questionnaire included four R/S questions: (i) extent to which one’s R/S is involved in coping with stressful situations, (ii) self-identification as a religious/spiritual person, (iii) frequency of attending religious services, and (iv) frequency of prayer. Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for each R/S variable in relation to incident hypertension using Cox proportional hazards regression models, controlling for demographics, known hypertension risk factors, psychosocial factors, and other R/S variables.

Results

During 2005–2013, 5,194 incident cases of hypertension were identified. High involvement of R/S in coping with stressful events compared with no involvement was associated with reduced risk of hypertension (IRR: 0.87; 95% CI: 0.75, 1.00). The association was strongest among women reporting greater levels of perceived stress (IRR: 0.77; 95% CI: 0.61, 0.98; p interaction = .01). More frequent prayer was associated with increased risk of hypertension (IRR: 1.12; 95% CI: 0.99, 1.27). No association was observed for the other R/S measures.

Conclusion

R/S coping was associated with decreased risk of hypertension in African American women, especially among those reporting higher levels of stress. Further research is needed to understand the mechanistic pathways through which R/S coping may affect health.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6230974/

 

Spirituality is Associated with Enhanced Well-Being

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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Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

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.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630357/

 

Spirituality Improves Health Behaviors Particularly When Coupled with Religion

Spirituality Improves Health Behaviors Particularly When Coupled with Religion

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Spirituality is a universal phenomenon and an inherent aspect of human nature that unfolds during adolescence as the individual searches for transcendence, meaning, and purpose in life.” – Sangwon Kim

 

We tend to think that illness is produced by physical causes, disease, injury, viruses, bacteria, etc. But many health problems are behavioral problems or have their origins in maladaptive behavior. This is evident in car accident injuries that are frequently due to behaviors, such as texting while driving, driving too fast or aggressively, or driving drunk. Other problematic behaviors are cigarette smoking, alcoholism, drug use, or unprotected sex. It is well established that if patterns and habits of healthy behaviors can be established early in life, long-term health can be promoted and ill health can be prevented. Adolescence is a time when these behavioral causes of health problems usually develop.

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental healthReligiosity is also known to help with a wide range of physical and psychological problems. So, it would make sense to investigate the influence of spirituality and religiosity on the ability of adolescents to develop positive health behaviors.

 

In today’s Research News article “”I am spiritual, but not religious”: Does one without the other protect against adolescent health-risk behaviour?” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6353810/), Malinakova and colleagues obtained data from a Czechoslovakian survey of a representative sample of adolescents aged 11, 13, and 15 years. Among other measures the youths completed measures of religious attendance, spirituality, tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis use, drug use experience, and sexual intercourse.

 

They found that either religious attendance or high spirituality was associated with a lower risk of smoking while only high spirituality was associated with lower alcohol use and only religious attendance appeared to be associated with lower early sexual intercourse. But when the combination of religious attendance and high spirituality was looked at, there were large significantly lower levels of tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis use and lifetime drug use.

 

These results are interesting but correlational. So, caution must be exercised in making conclusions about causality. They suggest, though, that individually religious attendance and spirituality only have limited associations with lower levels of health risk behaviors in adolescents. But in combination they have a strong association with lower levels of these behaviors. This suggests that just attending religious services doesn’t impact health risk behaviors unless it is combined with spirituality. It would appear that when youths are religious and also spiritual, they are much less likely to engage in behaviors that may damage their health.

 

So, spirituality improves health behaviors particularly when coupled with religion.

 

The results also showed a consistent relationship between high levels of spiritual health and positive overall self-rated health. Overall, while the perceived importance of spiritual health declined by age, for adolescents who maintain a strong sense of the importance of self-perceived spiritual health, the possible benefits are striking.” – HBSC News

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Study Summary

 

Malinakova, K., Kopcakova, J., Madarasova Geckova, A., van Dijk, J. P., Furstova, J., Kalman, M., … Reijneveld, S. A. (2019). “I am spiritual, but not religious”: Does one without the other protect against adolescent health-risk behaviour?. International journal of public health, 64(1), 115–124. doi:10.1007/s00038-018-1116-4

 

Abstract

Objectives

Spirituality and religious attendance (RA) have been suggested to protect against adolescent health-risk behaviour (HRB). The aim of this study was to explore the interrelatedness of these two concepts in a secular environment.

Methods

A nationally representative sample (n = 4566, 14.4 ± 1.1 years, 48.8% boys) of adolescents participated in the 2014 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children cross-sectional study. RA, spirituality (modified version of the Spiritual Well-Being Scale), tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and drug use and the prevalence of sexual intercourse were measured.

Results

RA and spirituality were associated with a lower chance of weekly smoking, with odds ratios (OR) 0.57 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.36–0.88] for RA and 0.88 (0.80–0.97) for spirituality. Higher spirituality was also associated with a lower risk of weekly drinking [OR (95% CI) 0.91 (0.83–0.995)]. The multiplicative interaction of RA and spirituality was associated with less risky behaviour for four of five explored HRB. RA was not a significant mediator for the association of spirituality with HRB.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that high spirituality only protects adolescents from HRB if combined with RA.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6353810/

 

Religion and Spirituality are Associated with Brain Difference is Individuals At-Risk for Major Depression

Religion and Spirituality are Associated with Brain Difference is Individuals At-Risk for Major Depression

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

There are two possible explanations. One is that a thicker cortex is more associated with being interested in spiritual questions, the connectedness of people, etc and is simultaneously protective against depression. The other is that a lifelong habit of meditating and/or contemplation of spirituality stimulates the metabolism and neurogeneration in areas of the brain that confer resilience to trauma and therefore reduce the risk of developing depression.” – Emily Deans

 

Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. Spirituality has been promulgated as a solution to the challenges of life both in a transcendent sense and in a practical sense. 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 spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health.

 

One way that spirituality can have its effects on the individual is by altering the brain. The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. So, religion and spirituality may be associated with changes in the nervous system.

 

In today’s Research News article “A diffusion tensor imaging study of brain microstructural changes related to religion and spirituality in families at high risk for depression.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6379589/), Li and colleagues recruited adult (average 33 years old) offspring of patients with major depressive disorder (high risk) and offspring from individuals who have no psychiatric conditions (low risk). Their brains were scanned with a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). They also completed a scale measuring the importance they ascribed to religion and spirituality.

 

They found that in participants who believed that religion / spirituality was of low importance but were of high risk for major depression had significantly decreased integrity and microstructure in white matter regions neighboring the precuneus, superior parietal lobe, superior and middle frontal gyrus, and bilateral insula, supplementary motor area, and postcentral gyrus. Participants who believed that religion / spirituality was of high importance and were of high risk for major depression had significantly decreased integrity and microstructure in white matter regions surrounding the left superior, and middle frontal gyrus, left superior parietal lobule, and right supplementary motor area.

 

These are complex findings that suggest that adults at high risk of developing major depression have lower integrity (functionality) of the connections between brain regions (white matter) potentially making them more susceptible for the development of major depression. These neural changes appear to be different depending upon the individuals’ beliefs of the importance of religion / spirituality. Religion / spirituality may be associated with reorganized connections that may be associated with protection from the development of major depression. This may be a mechanism by which religion / spirituality helps to protect individuals from developing major depression.

 

This is highly speculative and it will take much more research to test these ideas. But, nonetheless, the results suggest that how well the brain operates is damaged by having parents with major depressive disorder. But, being religious / spiritual may alter the disruptions of the brain protecting the individual from the development of a major depressive disorder.

 

people with habitual spiritual practices show cortical thickening in the prefrontal cortex. Intriguingly, she says that individuals who live with chronic depression experience cortical thinning in the same brain region.” – Maria Cohut

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Study Summary

 

Li, X., Weissman, M., Talati, A., Svob, C., Wickramaratne, P., Posner, J., & Xu, D. (2019). A diffusion tensor imaging study of brain microstructural changes related to religion and spirituality in families at high risk for depression. Brain and behavior, 9(2), e01209. doi:10.1002/brb3.1209

 

Abstract

Introduction

Previously in a three‐generation study of families at high risk for depression, we found that belief in the importance of religion/spirituality (R/S) was associated with thicker cortex in bilateral parietal and occipital regions. In the same sample using functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalograph (EEG), we found that offspring at high familial risk had thinner cortices, increased default mode network connectivity, and reduced EEG power. These group differences were significantly diminished in offspring at high risk who reported high importance of R/S beliefs, suggesting a protective effect.

Methods

This study extends previous work examining brain microstructural differences associated with risk for major depressive disorder (MDD) and tests whether these are normalized in at‐risk offspring who report high importance of R/S beliefs. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data were selected from 99 2nd and 3rd generation offspring of 1st generation depressed (high‐risk, HR) or nondepressed (low‐risk, LR) parents. Whole‐brain and region‐of‐interest analyses were performed, using ellipsoidal area ratio (EAR, an alternative diffusion anisotropy index comparable to fractional anisotropy). We examined microstructural differences associated with familial risk for depression within the groups of high and low importance of R/S beliefs (HI, LI).

Results

In the LI group, HR individuals showed significantly decreased EAR in white matter regions neighboring the precuneus, superior parietal lobe, superior and middle frontal gyrus, and bilateral insula, supplementary motor area, and postcentral gyrus. In the HI group, HR individuals showed reduced EAR in white matter surrounding the left superior, and middle frontal gyrus, left superior parietal lobule, and right supplementary motor area. Microstructural differences associated with familial risk for depression in precuneus, frontal lobe, and temporal lobe were nonsignificant or less significant in the HI group.

Conclusion

R/S beliefs may affect microstructure in brain regions associated with R/S, potentially conferring resilience to depression among HR individuals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6379589/