No matter what your faith is, you're more likely to be mentally healthy if you're in any way spiritual. According to a press release from the University of Missouri, despite differences in rituals and beliefs among the world’s major religions, spirituality correlates with good mental health. The MU researchers believe that health care providers could take advantage of this link between mental health and spirituality by tailoring treatments and rehabilitation programs to accommodate an individual’s spiritual inclinations.
The paper, “Relationships Among Spirituality, Religious Practices, Personality Factors, and Health for Five Different Faiths,” was published in the Journal of Religion and Health. The participants in the study included Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, and Protestants.
The university release quotes Dan Cohen, assistant teaching professor of religious studies at MU and one of the co-authors of the study, as saying, “With increased spirituality people reduce their sense of self and feel a greater sense of oneness and connectedness with the rest of the universe. What was interesting was that frequency of participation in religious activities or the perceived degree of congregational support was not found to be significant in the relationships between personality, spirituality, religion, and health.”
Cohen also said that his team's prior research showed that the mental health of people recovering from various medical conditions such as cancer, stroke, spinal cord injury, and traumatic brain injury appears to be related significantly to positive spiritual beliefs and especially congregational support and spiritual interventions. “Spiritual beliefs may be a coping device to help individuals deal emotionally with stress,” Cohen noted.
On the other hand, Cohen cautioned that the negative side of a patient’s spirituality may manifest itself in the tendency to view misfortune as a divine curse. He suggested that health workers need to learn how to minimize the potentially damaging results of this aspect of spirituality.
In their conclusion, the researchers wrote spiritual interventions "should continue to be used in clinical practice and investigated in health research."