Emerging research suggests religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health.
Oregon State University researchers looked at the relationship between health, religion, and spirituality and developed a theoretical model that defines two distinct pathways.
“Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel,” said Carolyn Aldwin, Ph.D., a gerontology professor at Oregon State University.
Spirituality, including meditation and private prayer, helps regulate emotions, which aids physiological effects such as blood pressure.
The findings were published recently in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.
“No one has ever reviewed all of the different models of how religion affects health,” said Aldwin. “We’re trying to impose a structure on a very messy field.”
“There can be some overlap of the influences of religion and spirituality on health,” Aldwin said.
Still, more research is needed to test the theory and examine contrasts between the two pathways.
“The goal is to help researchers develop better measures for analyzing the connections between religion, spirituality, and health and then explore possible clinical interventions,” she said.
This article first appeared on ‘Psych Central’ on 31 March 2014.