Stephanie Reid Arndt Though not all would agree, can a touch of spirituality pave the path to a healthy body? This unique study by University of Missouri scientists has shown that religious and spiritual support could enhance health outcomes for men as well as women experiencing acute health problems.

Spirituality in this study relates to care from congregations, spiritual interventions such as religious counseling, attributes such as forgiveness and aid from pastors and hospital chaplains. The results showed that religious support could be linked to better mental health in women as well as better physical and mental status for men.

“Our findings reinforce the idea that religion/spirituality may help buffer the negative consequences of chronic health conditions. We know that there are many ways of coping with stressful life situations, such as a chronic illness; involvement in religious/spiritual activities can be an effective coping strategy,” remarked Stephanie Reid-Arndt, associate professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions.

Contrary to popular beliefs that women are more spiritual than men, it came to light that during chronic illnesses, both the sexes rely on spiritual and religious avenues. As far as women are concerned, mental health is related to spiritual activities, forgiveness and religious coping. This implies that a caring and forgiving higher power is associated with beneficial mental satisfaction for women suffering from chronic conditions.

As far as men are concerned, religious support, the perception of help, support and comfort from local congregations were apparently linked to improved self-rated health. The study namely Gender Differences in Spiritual Experiences, Religious Practices, and Congregational Support for Individuals with Significant Health Conditions is published in the Journal of Religion, Disability & Health.