"Spiritual' people more vulnerable to mental health problems
People who are "spiritual' but don't follow a framework of religious observance are more vulnerable to mental health problems, according to a new study.
(Media-Newswire.com) - People who are ‘spiritual’ but don’t follow a framework of religious observance are more vulnerable to mental health problems, according to a new study.
However, the research found that there was little difference in mental disorder or treatment between those with a religious faith and those with none, although the religious were less likely to have problems with drugs or alcohol.
Researchers analysed the findings of interviews with a random selection of a nationally representative sample of 7,403 people in England. They examined the links between a spiritual or religious understanding of life and psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses.
Among the participants in the study, published in the January British Journal of Psychiatry:
35% defined themselves as ‘religious’, meaning they actually practised a faith, such as attending a church, mosque, synagogue or temple ( 86% of this group were Christian ) 19% had ‘spiritual’ beliefs or experiences, without following a specific religion 46% were neither religious nor spiritual More than nine out of ten of the participants were white British, with an average age of 46. Just over half of the sample was female, and each participant was interviewed for about 90 minutes as part of the third National Psychiatric Morbidity Study.
The study found that people with a spiritual understanding were more likely to:
have abnormal eating disorders take medication for mental health problems use, or be dependent upon, recreational drugs have a generalised anxiety disorder, phobia or any neurotic disorder Unlike some American studies, the research found no clear relationship between religiosity and happiness, nor that a religious understanding of life provides protection against mental disorders.
However, it did find that those with a religious understanding of life were about half as likely to have ever taken drugs, or be drug dependent or hazardous drinkers, compared with the ‘spiritual’ group or those with no religious or spiritual beliefs.
The researchers state: "Our main finding is that people who had a spiritual understanding of life had worse mental health than those with an understanding that was neither religious nor spiritual."
They say that a possible explanation for the findings is that people with a spiritual life view "...are caught up in an existential search that is driven by their emotional distress".
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References: King M, Marston L, McManus S, Brugha T, Meltzer H and Bebbington P. Religion, spirituality and mental health: results from a national study of English households. Britsh Journal of Psychiatry, 2013; 202: 68-73
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