about Spirituality & Health
A. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings. Religion is a specific set of organized beliefs and practices, usually shared by a group. Spirituality is more individual, and has to do with a sense of peace, purpose, and connection to others, and beliefs about the meaning of life. People may consider themselves both spiritual and religious; spiritual, but not religious; religious, but not spiritual; or neither religious nor spiritual.
A. No one really knows for sure; much more research will be needed before the relationship between the body and the mind—and some would add, the spirit—is understood. But the health of any one of these elements seems to affect the health of the others. For example, one study showed that religiously oriented patients were three times more likely to survive open-heart surgery than those who had no religious ties. At the very least, serious illnesses may challenge a patient's beliefs or religious values, resulting in high levels of spiritual or psychological distress. Talking about this distress with a caring health care provider or with a spiritual counselor who is familiar with the illness and treatment may help the patient feel better, even if they are not healed.
A. If you are treating a patient, it is important to know how their spiritual or religious beliefs may be affecting their feelings about their illness and treatment. A patient’s spiritual beliefs may affect their health care decisions and their ability to follow treatment recommendations. While it is against the law to discriminate against a patient on the basis of religious orientation, no law prohibits providers from asking whether a patient has religious or spiritual concerns that they would like to discuss.
Humility and Compassionate Presence at the End of Life A website
developed at Santa Clara university presents cases regarding culturally
competent health care, each linked to several short ethical
reflections. Fictional patients are originally from Iran, Afghanistan,
Oaxaca, and Puerto Rico.
and Health International: Peer reviewed, non-denominational quarterly
journal explores spirituality as it affects those “who work in
healing and caring ways.”
Center for Spirituality and Healing, University of Minnesota: Research
and training center that offers education, outreach and research in complementary,
alternative and culturally based healing practices,
integrating complementary and conventional health care.
Taking Charge of Your Health: Consumer information on integrating complementary and conventional health care, navigating the health care system and creating a healthy lifestyle. Includes personal stories of people who successfully used complementary therapies. Sponsored by the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing.
How would you know what I want as I die?
Spirituality shapes the health care choices we make. Guessing is no substitute for asking. Learn how and why to talk clearly about spiritual values.