This article reviews the literature on the impact of religion and spirituality on physical and mental health, concluding that the influence is largely beneficial. Mechanisms for the positive effect of religion and spirituality are proposed.
The positive effects of religious and spiritual experience on health are based on the assumption that the experience itself is positive and healthy.
In summary, several research and clinical issues are raised by the literature on the relation between religion and health:
- To what extent do psychosocial factors such as social ties, psychological resources (e.g., sense of control), or personality characteristics (e.g., optimism, hope) serve as possible mediators in the religion-health connection? Is religion only the context within which such mechanisms happen to play an important role, or is religion necessary for these positive effects?
- How do contextual factors such as race, culture, socioeconomic status, and religious preference affect the religion-health relationship?
- Can researchers better disaggregate the concepts of religion and spirituality to more systematically analyze the effects of specific dimensions on health?
- Can researchers develop general measures of religion and spirituality that cut across religious traditions without robbing those traditions of their distinctive and substantive characteristics?
- How can mental and physical health professionals be encouraged to consider a patient’s religion or spirituality when taking a health history? Given the relationship between religion spirituality and health, a patient’s religious beliefs and practices should be taken into account in these clinical settings.
Therefore, health researchers and health service providers not allow such barriers to limit their understanding of the crucial contributory roles of religion and spirituality in physical and mental health.