Spirituality is an essential part of people and yet most of them tend to poorly understand it. The concept of spirituality is quite difficult and must be accepted, and unless people address their spiritual needs they cannot achieve well-being. People are spiritual beings, regardless of their beliefs, because they are humans. This paper relies on previous literature on the subject of spirituality and well-being to in order to take a well-informed approach to explain the correlation of the two. Based on research, this paper suggests that spirituality contributes towards well-being, and spiritual well-being is an important part of emotional, mental and physical health. Moreover, by enhancing well-being, spirituality improves the entire life of an individual, thus reducing mortality. This paper not only emphasizes the fact that spirituality and well-being are connected and correlated, but will also reveal how spirituality positively affects well-being on the basis of available literature.
It is frequently believed that spirituality or religiosity can have a beneficial impact on a person’s well-being. In fact, meta-analysis and reviews suggest that decreases in morbidity and mortality seem to be directly connected to the involvement of spirituality (Ball et al., 2003). Study also suggests that outcomes after major illnesses and medical procedures may also be improved with the involvement of spirituality (Oxman et al., 1995). The effects of spirituality on well-being have been profoundly studied. There are many studies and substantial literature that suggest that spirituality is positively associated and connected to both mental and physical health. According to numerous investigators, spirituality not only affects depression but can protect a person from depression as well. Studies have also reported that spirituality can improve a person’s life satisfaction or perceived quality of life and reduce the risk of suicide. Based on all this research, spirituality and well-being seem to be correlated, and spirituality seems to have numerous effects on well-being.
The connection between spirituality and mental well-being has been distinguished as “impressive.” People who are spiritual report that they feel far more content and satisfied with their life than people who are not spiritual or religious. Based on the almost hundred studies, the findings of a majority of those studies report that some measure of spirituality is positively associated with some measure of contentment, fulfillment, happiness, joy, pleasure, and well-being. Other researchers have also come to the conclusion that spirituality seems to have quite the same affect on mental health outcomes that preventative measures and therapy seem to have.
How does spirituality affect well-being?
It is apparent that a large number of studies suggest that spirituality and well-being – mental and physical health – are positively correlated. Researchers have made various attempts to explain this relationship through models with emphasis on the different factors that mediate relationship between spirituality and well-being, such as:
Relaxation response: Apparently, a “relaxation response” is drawn out by spiritual practices. As a result of the contribution of this relaxation response, a person’s blood pressure is lowered; muscle tension and the sympathetic nervous system activities are reduced, and so on. Moreover, as a result of all these factors, a person’s health and well-being are improved (Benson & Stark, 1997).
Healthy behavior: People who are spiritual tend to avoid indulging in unhealthy behavior, such as alcohol, drug abuse, and smoking (Strawbridge et al., 2001).
Social support: People who religious and spiritual also tend to be associated with more comprehensive social support network, and more comprehensive social support network means better mental and physical health outcomes (Strawbridge et al., 2001).
Meaning in life: People who are spiritual tend to be more coherent and feel that their life meaningful. They also gain a hopeful perspective on life. Spirituality enables people to find meaning in their life, as a result of which their mental and physical health is improved.
Coping: People who are intrinsically spiritual also do not easily get anxious and depressed, and they tend to have a higher self-esteem. In fact, in fact spirituality actually helps people cope with such negative emotions by acting as a barrier between the detrimental effects that stress can have on the body (Pargament, 2001).
Positive psychological states: Since spirituality may act as a barrier against negative emotional states, such as anger, anxiety, fear, etc, however, at the same it also promotes positive emotional states, such as compassion, joy, and love, as well. The fact that allostatic load is reduced by positive emotions is well known, and as a result of reduced allostatic load, the cardiovascular reactivity of a person is also reduced and their immune system is enhanced (McEwen, 1998).
Utilization by health services: According to some evidence, spirituality and the utilization of health services tend to be positively related to each other. The findings of studies such as these suggest that people who are more spiritual tend to make greater use of preventative care and comply with medical regiments to a greater extent (Koenig et al., 2001).
Altruism: One thing that is particularly common among people who are spiritual is that they are altruistic or selfless, and take active part in selfless service. According to some research, altruism is related to health and well-being. Altruism may prevent people from excessively focusing on themselves, thus, positively impacting their health.
Reduced mortality: Based on the meta-analysis of individual samples investigating the association of the involvement of spirituality and mortality by any cause, people who are spiritual tend to have almost 29% higher chances of survival than people who are not spiritual (McCullough, Hoyt, Larson, Klauber & Smart, 2000). Apparently, the reason behind this is that being spiritual tends to enhance a person’s well-being and elevates their resistant to disease.
In conclusion, all of the above seems to suggest that spirituality may directly or indirectly affect a person’s health through in diverse ways. It is also obvious that the ways in which spirituality seems to make a positive impact on a person’s health, well-being, and ultimately their mortality are overlapped and work simultaneously. Therefore, this is how spirituality and well-being are correlated and spirituality has such a therapeutic value.
Ball, J., Armistead, L., & Austin, B. J. (n.d.). “the relationship between religiosity and adjustment among africanamerican, female, urban adolescents. (2003). Journal of Adolescence, (26), 431–446.
Benson, H., & Stark, M. (1997). Timeless healing. (1st ed.). New York: Scribner.
Koenig, H., King, D., & Carson, V. B. (2012). Handbook of religion and health. (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McCullough, M., Hoyt, W., Larson, I., Klauber, M., & Smart, C. (n.d.). Religious involvement and mortality: a meta-analytic review. (2000). Health Psychol, (19), 211–222.
McEwen, B. S. (n.d.). Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. (1998). N Engl J Med, (338), 171-179.
Oxman, A. D., Thomson, M. A., Davis, D. A., & Haynes, R. B. (n.d.). No magic bullets: a systematic review of 102 trials of interventions to improve professional practice. (1995). CMAJ, 153(10), 1423-1431.
Pargament, K. I. (2001). The psychology of religion and coping: The theory, research, practice. (1st ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
Strawbridge, W. J., Shema, S. J., Cohen, R. D., & Kaplan. , G. A. (n.d.). Religious attendance increases survival by improving and maintaining good health behaviors, mental health, and social relationships. (2001). Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 23(1), 68-74.