Saturday, February 7, 2009

Are Mental and Spiritual Health Linked?

Does this seem like a ludicrous question to you? It has taken the health care community long enough to begin to reintegrate the mind and body connection. How challenging would it be to see individuals incorporate spirit along with the mind and the body? We tend to be better served when we think of ourselves as whole individuals comprised of mind, body and spirit. I recently read an article online regarding the role spiritual coping plays in recovery from depression.

Quote: Depressed seniors who believe their life is guided by a larger spiritual force have significantly fewer symptoms of depression than those who do not use religious coping strategies. Moreover, this relationship is independent of the amount of social support those individuals receive, according to results of a prospective study presented at the 2002 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

"This is a pretty remarkable study–and when you see these kind of data coming out from both medical and psychiatric populations, it’s hard to continue ignoring religion as a variable in the recovery from depression," said Harold G. Koenig, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.

According to study author Hayden Bosworth, PhD, attempts in the literature to distinguish the effects of religion from the effects of social support on depression have led to mixed success (Husaini BA et al. Int J Aging Hum Dev 1999;48:63-72). Dr. Bosworth, associate director, health services research and development, Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and his colleagues attempted to address the issue by examining the effects of religious practices, coping mechanisms and social support on recovery among individuals diagnosed with major depression.

"These results indicate that clinicians should encourage reconnection with religion as a way of coping in patients whose spirituality has been important to them," concluded Dr. Bosworth.

"Physicians need to pay attention to their patients’ religious beliefs and practices," added Dr. Koenig. "Rather than continuing to see it as a liability or unhealthy crutch, they should see it as a potential strength in overcoming depression."

–Daniel Ko

Table. Questions Asked About Religious Practices and Positive and Negative Religious Coping

Religious Practices

Frequency and nature of:

  • attendance at religious services and other religious activities at places of worship
  • prayer outside of a church or synagogue
  • watching or listening to religious programming
  • reading the Bible or other religious or inspirational literature

Positive Religious Coping

Agreement with the following statements:

  • "I think about how my life is part of a larger spiritual force."
  • "God and I work together as partners."
  • "I look to God for strength, support and guidance."

Negative Religious Coping

Agreement with the following statements:

  • "I feel God is punishing me for my sins or lack of spirituality."
  • "I wonder whether God has abandoned me."
  • "I try to make sense of the situation and decide what to do without relying on God."
Article found at Mental Health Today.