March 28, 2014
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.
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.
- 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