Study reveals how spiritual beliefs affect physical and mental health.
People who believe God loves them and forgives them have better mental health, a new study finds.
In contrast, those who hold negative spiritual beliefs tend to have worse mental health.
Negative spiritual beliefs include believing that God is punishing you or feeling abandoned.
Professor Brick Johnstone, one of the study’s authors, said:
“In general, the more religious or spiritual you are, the healthier you are, which makes sense.
But for some individuals, even if they have even the smallest degree of negative spirituality — basically, when individuals believe they’re ill because they’ve done something wrong and God is punishing them — their health is worse.”
Almost 200 people with a variety of health conditions were included in the study.
Amongst the ailments, some had cancer, some brain injuries, while others were healthy.
Everyone was divided into two groups:
- Positive spirituality: felt loved and accepted by a higher power.
- Negative spirituality: felt abandoned or punished by a higher power.
Those with negative spirituality reported being in more pain and having worse mental health.
Even small amounts of negative spirituality were linked to lower levels of health.
Professor Johnstone said:
“Previous research has shown that about 10 percent of people have negative spiritual beliefs; for example, believing that if they don’t do something right, God won’t love them.
That’s a negative aspect of religion when people believe, ‘God is not supportive of me.
What kind of hope do I have?’
However, when people firmly believe God loves and forgives them despite their shortcomings, they had significantly better mental health.”
The study was published in the Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health (Jones et al., 2015).
Holding sun image from Shutterstock
Hello, and welcome to PsyBlog. Thanks for dropping by.
This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.
It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.
I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.