Religion and Spirituality Enhance Mental Health
Vitality Explorers seeks to help all of us enhance our physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. This is its core mission.
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This post will review the data from a meta-analysis study about religion, spirituality and mental health. The study analysis included almost 80,000 participants.
Here are the conclusions:
“Findings of the present study suggest that religion and spiritual practices are significantly associated with mental health in older adults. People with high religion and spiritual practice levels had a lower prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as reported greater life satisfaction and psychological well-being, better social relations, and more definite meaning in life. Data provided by an increasing number of longitudinal studies have supported most of these findings.”
Only rarely is this type of data mentioned in the lay press and it is almost never discussed in a doctor’s office.
I think the paper also does an excellent job of defining mental health.
“Mental health is an integral and vital component of health that encompasses emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing . It refers to the way by which people behave, identify their selves, and cope with stressful events thereby affecting how they experience and understand life events. In contrast, mental health decline is accompanied by a high frequency of persistent negative emotions, thoughts, and beliefs that influence the quality of life.
Mental health matters to our vitality. This is obvious. But, did we know religion and spiritual can help us enhance our mental health? Do we have any ideas about how to improve our spirituality?
Once again the paper crushes it when it defines religion and spirituality.
“Religious and spiritual beliefs are far from being just cultural traditions. Indeed, it involves numerous organizational, non-organizational, introspective, and community practices that might potentially influence human behavior.”
Here’s my definition of spirituality: Belief in Something Bigger than Yourself.
It is my hypothesis that we cannot be our most vital selves without believing in something bigger than ourselves and seeking to serve others in need. This is my personal opinion and I welcome comments below. This does not automatically mean a belief in God but it does mean we do not always put ourselves first in life. We are better when we seek to use our time, talent and treasure in pursuit of a higher calling.
Let’s return to the paper and review the data. A quick statistics review. A Z-score is a measure of the spread of the data. A score of one means the data value is one standard deviation above the above the mean or average value. (See this video for more about Z-scores)
Here are three of the main findings in a single sentence.
Religious and spiritual activity is associated with significantly higher life satisfaction, better psychological well-being and less anxiety.
Here is the detailed data supporting that sentence:
Religious and spiritual activity was associated with significantly higher life satisfaction scores (Z-score = 0.086, 95 % CI = 0.027–0.144, P = 0.004). See graph below.
Religious and spiritual activity was associated with significantly better psychological well-being. (Z-score = 0.108, 95 % CI = 0.054–0.162, P = 0.0001). See graph below.
Religious and spiritual activity was associated with significantly less anxiety (Z-score = −0.057, 95 % CI = −0.111–0.003, P = 0.037). See graph below.
This data is elite published in Frontiers in Medicine. See the full abstract below.
My hope is this post will spark a discussion about how religion and spirituality can help us combat the mental health crisis facing the world today.
Please post your comments below and please share this post with your network.
Religiosity/Spirituality and Mental Health in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies
Hélio José Coelho-Júnior1,2,3*, Riccardo Calvani3, Francesco Panza4, RiccardoF.Allegri5,6,AnnaPicca3,EmanueleMarzetti1,3† andVicentePauloAlves2†
1 Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Institute of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Rome, Italy, 2 Department of Gerontology, Catholic University of Brasília, Brasília, Brazil, 3 Fondazione Policlinico Universitario “Agostino Gemelli” IRCCS, Rome, Italy,
4 National Institute of Gastroenterology “Saverio de Bellis”, Research Hospital, Bari, Italy, 5 Department of Cognitive Neurology, Instituto de Investigaciones Neurológicas Fleni, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 6 Department of Neurosciences, Universidad de la Costa (CUC), Barranquilla, Colombia
Objectives: The present study investigated the association between religious and spiritual (RS) practices with the prevalence, severity, and incidence of mental health problems in older adults.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies that investigated older adults aged 60+ years and assessed RS using valid scales and questions from valid scales, and mental health according to validated multidimensional or specific instruments. Studies were retrieved from MEDLINE, LILACS, SCOPUS, CINAHL, and AgeLine databases until July 31, 2021. The risk of bias was evaluated using the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale (NOS). A pooled effect size was calculated based on the log odds ratio (OR) and Z-scores. This study is registered on PROSPERO.
Results: One hundred and two studies that investigated 79.918 community-dwellers, hospitalized, and institutionalized older adults were included. Results indicated that high RS was negatively associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms, while a positive association was observed with life satisfaction, meaning in life, social relations, and psychological well-being. Specifically, people with high spirituality, intrinsic religiosity, and religious affiliation had a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms. In relation to longitudinal analysis, most studies supported that high RS levels were associated with a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and fear of death, as well as better mental health status.
Conclusion: Findings of the present study suggest that RS are significantly associated with mental health in older adults. People with high RS levels had a lower prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as reported greater life satisfaction and psychological well-being, better social relations, and more definite meaning in life. Data provided by an increasing number of longitudinal studies have supported most of these findings.