Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways

March 28, 2014, Oregon State University

Religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health, new research from Oregon State University indicates.

"Religion helps regulate behavior and , while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel," said Carolyn Aldwin, a gerontology professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

Aldwin and colleagues have been working to understand and distinguish the beneficial connections between health, and spirituality. The result is a new theoretical model that defines two distinct pathways.

Religiousness, including formal religious affiliation and service attendance, is associated with better health habits, such as lower smoking rates and reduced alcohol consumption. Spirituality, including meditation and private prayer, helps regulate emotions, which aids physiological effects such as blood pressure.

The findings were published recently in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Co-authors were Crystal L. Park of the University of Connecticut, and Yu-Jin Jeong and Ritwik Nath of OSU. The research was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

"No one has ever reviewed all of the different models of how religion affects health," said 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, and and then explore possible clinical interventions, she said.

Explore further: Spirituality, religion may protect against major depression by thickening brain cortex, study finds

Related Stories

Spirituality, religion may protect against major depression by thickening brain cortex, study finds

January 20, 2014
A thickening of the brain cortex associated with regular meditation or other spiritual or religious practice could be the reason those activities guard against depression – particularly in people who are predisposed to ...

GW spirituality and health pioneer publishes paper on development of the field

February 18, 2014
While spirituality played a significant role in health care for centuries, technological advances in the 20th century overshadowed this more human side of medicine. Christina Puchalski, M.D.'94, RESD'97, founder and director ...

Spirituality key to Chinese medicine success, study finds

September 25, 2012
Are the longevity and vitality of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) due to its holistic approach? Indeed, Chinese medicine is not simply about treating illness, but rather about taking care of the whole person—body, mind, ...

Religious, spiritual support benefits men and women facing chronic illness: study

October 26, 2011
Individuals who practice religion and spirituality report better physical and mental health than those who do not. To better understand this relationship and how spirituality/religion can be used for coping with significant ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nik_2213
not rated yet Mar 28, 2014
This over-simplification assumes the religion in question permits adequate medical intervention. IIRC, there is a health crisis looming in NW Tribal region of Pakistan because local preachers have banned vaccinations...
ashokndr
not rated yet Mar 30, 2014
http://uk.reuters...0140114.
religion breeds hostility

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.