Religion and Spirituality Impact Our Health in Different Ways

March 28, 2014

From Oregon State University

Religion and spirituality have different and complementary influences on our health, according to new research from Oregon State University.

Formal religious affiliation and regular service attendance are linked to better health habits, such as lower smoking rates and less alcohol consumption. Spirituality, including meditation and prayer, aids in regulation of emotions, which improves physiological symptoms such as blood pressure.

“Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel,” stated Carolyn Aldwin, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

Emotional management helped by spirituality not religion
Spirituality helps regulate emotions

Aldwin and colleagues have been working to understand and differentiate the links between health, religion and spirituality. The outcome is a new theoretical model that defines two unique pathways.

“No one has ever reviewed all of the different models of how religion affects health,” reported Aldwin, the Jo Anne Leonard endowed director of OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research. “We’re trying to impose a structure on a very messy field.”

There can be some overlap of the influences of religion and spirituality on health, Aldwin said. More research is needed to test the theory and examine contrasts between the two pathways. The goal is to help researchers develop better measures for analyzing the connections between religion, spirituality and health and then explore possible clinical interventions, she said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State UniversityNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Carolyn M. Aldwin, Crystal L. Park, Yu-Jin Jeong, Ritwik Nath. Differing pathways between religiousness, spirituality, and health: A self-regulation perspective.Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2014; 6 (1): 9 DOI: 10.1037/a0034416

Author: Dr. John Schinnerer

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is a U.C. Berkeley-trained executive coach and founder of Guide To Self, a company that focuses on coaching high performing individuals to their potential using strengths-based development and positive psychology (the science of optimal human functioning). He consulted on Pixar's Academy Award-winning movie Inside Out. He was featured in the documentary Skewed. He was recently cited in US News and World Report on anger management. His private practice is located at 913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280, Danville, CA 94526. He may be reached at John @GuideToSelf.com. Most recently, Dr. John hosted Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated summa cum laude from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. John has been a coach and psychologist for over 10 years. Dr. John’s areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to emotional awareness, to moral development to parenting. He is a noted writer and speaker on topics such as employee engagement, emotional intelligence, making a good brain great, and creating a healthy and efficient workplace. His award-winning book is on proven ways to lead a meaningful and happy life and is entitled, “Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought.” He has written articles on corporate ethics and EQ in the workplace for Workspan magazine, HR.com, and Business Ethics. He has given numerous presentations and consulted with tens of thousands of people for organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, Pixar, Sutter Health, SHRM, NCHRA, KNEW and KDIA. For over 17 years, Dr. John has been a loving father to four children.