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).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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