Spirituality Improves Mental Health

Quality of life is a subjective gauge of a person’s overall well-being and includes assessments and self-reports of physical health, mental health, functional abilities, emotional condition, social support, and spirituality. As healthcare continues to evolve and provide more complete, holistic care for patients, the importance of religion and spirituality is increasingly emphasized. And, with good reason, since new research indicates that spirituality is a central determinant of quality of life and it confers more positive benefits on mental health than on other factors.

Physical activity has long been known as influential on overall well-being and quality of life, but just what role religious practice plays in quality of life is still undetermined. The authors of the current study, published in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, used a model that was similar to a validated assessment of physical activity to evaluate the effects of multidimensional factors on well-being, including religious practice. A total of 215 adults participated in the study by completing paper-and-pencil questionnaires and wearing a device that measured physical activity. The participants completed assessments of overall satisfaction with life, physical and mental health status, social support, confidence to engage in physical activity and complete self-care tasks, physical activity, and spirituality and religiousness.

Physical activity, social support, and spirituality showed the strongest influences on well-being and confidence in one’s abilities. And, more spiritual individuals reported a more positive overall health status than participants who did not report regular religious practice. There was a stronger association between spirituality and mental health than physical health. The authors concluded that spirituality’s influence on quality of life is largely mediated by mental health, and physical activity’s influence on quality of life is largely mediated by physical health.

Many studies have reported the benefits of spirituality on specific health outcomes, but few have reported its influence on global quality of life. Indeed, religious individuals experience lower morbidity and mortality than individuals who do not report regular religious practice, and religion confers a protective benefit against several physical and mental health disorders. While the mechanisms for these connections are not well-understood, evidence is mounting that spirituality and a perceived connection to a divine being (whomever or whatever that may be) give individuals a sense of control over their lives.

Spirituality and religious practice provide a connection to a world bigger than one’s self and provides a perspective that minimizes day-to-day struggles and maximizes timeless gains. No single factor guarantees positive well-being or mental health, but an abiding faith in a higher power seems a reliable place to start.


Johnstone B, Yoon DP, Cohen D, Schopp LH, McCormack G, Campbell J, & Smith M (2012). Relationships Among Spirituality, Religious Practices, Personality Factors, and Health for Five Different Faith Traditions. Journal of religion and health PMID: 22618413

Konopack JF, & McAuley E (2012). Efficacy-mediated effects of spirituality and physical activity on quality of life: A path analysis. Health and quality of life outcomes, 10 (1) PMID: 22642832

Unterrainer HF, Lewis AJ, & Fink A (2012). Religious/Spiritual Well-Being, Personality and Mental Health: A Review of Results and Conceptual Issues. Journal of religion and health PMID: 22965652

Unterrainer HF, Schoeggl H, Fink A, Neuper C, & Kapfhammer HP (2012). Soul Darkness? Dimensions of Religious/ Spiritual Well-Being among Mood-Disordered Inpatients Compared to Healthy Controls. Psychopathology, 45, 310-6 PMID: 22797574

Image via BioLife Pics / Shutterstock.

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  • No question, that as anthropology peers back to some of our earliest ancesters that we have a keen interest in our connection to the transcendent & our Creator. Interesting, that many abnl psych texts that I’ve reviewed inc. the one I am using for the last 4 years, does not take spirituality into account when discussing protective/risk factors in re:to psychosocial wellness or self-efficacy. I certainly introduce this topic!


  • Marilyn McPherson

    As a spiritual seeker and practitioner of Christian Science, I’ve seen the efficacy of prayer in lifting mental and emotional burdens, as well as improving physical health. Thank you for this blog.

    • Scientastic

      Tell me how that works for bacterial meningitis.
      This article is poorly cited – what part of spirituality works? As far as I recall, the increased social network can work in many people’s favor. In certain groups, such as the ones which perform shaming or cutting off all contact with ex-members and emphasize ‘us versus them’ mentality, this can be ‘helpful’ to members of the group but excessively harmful to people outside that group, or who wish to question belief, even lightly.

  • Vicky

    I’d wish there were more research on negative effects of religion. Some of us suffered childhood abuse with biblical reasoning. I believed as a child that God would send me to hell because I was sexually abused (sex is a sin), even though He wanted this to happen to me.

  • Marilyn McPherson

    I would view religion that is used to justify abuse or punishment as a distortion of the inspired word. There is no evil in a God of love and truth and he/she causes no evil nor condones it.

  • Marilyn

    Recommended reading:
    For This Doctor, Business As Usual Is Over – patient-centered, loving health care:

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  • Paul

    I’m not convinced. Maybe spirituality and religion can be helpful to people who do not fit the box af long term mental illness. But to pathological sufferers I dont see how spirituality can help them. When persons are suseptable to grandiose and delusional thoughts I only see this as moving them further from reality. I think people with long term mental illness should hold up survival and self preservation as their goal not trust this responsibility onto something or someone else.

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  • Marilyn McPherson

    If links could be set up so this blog could easily be shared via Facebook and Twitter, that would be cool.

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  • This blog is according to my acpectations dude.This has helped me in my daily and also life so much.Love you for this one.

  • holly

    yes, totally agreed with the blog because mental health is the key support to get success in life.Following Spirituality and religious practice doesn’t harm anything but it only gains something in life.

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD, is a practicing clinical pharmacist and medical writer/editor with experience in researching and preparing scientific publications, developing public relations materials, creating educational resources and presentations, and editing technical manuscripts. She is the owner of Excalibur Scientific, LLC.

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