Review of spiritual health: definition, role, and intervention strategies in health promotion

Am J Health Promot. 1995 May-Jun;9(5):371-8. doi: 10.4278/0890-1171-9.5.371.


PURPOSE OF THE REVIEW. Recognition of the spiritual dimension as a vital component of human wellness has led to an increased interest in spirituality education, yet very little progress has been made in identifying possible intervention methods for enhancing spirituality. The purpose of this article is to review current definitions of spiritual health; provide an overview of several successful intervention methods that may enhance spiritual health; and outline potential relationships between spiritual health interventions and behavioral, emotional, and physical health outcomes. SEARCH METHOD USED. Research and review articles were identified through a CD-ROM computer search of ERIC (1966 to 1994), PSYCHLIT (1974 to 1994), and MEDLINE (1991 to 1994) databases using appropriate key words. Cumulative indexes from Advances (1984 to 1993) were manually searched, and reference lists from identified studies and literature reviews were analyzed. A total of 71 articles were identified and considered. Model interventions were chosen for presentation on the basis of soundness of research design, peer-review publication, clear description of intervention method, and relationship to spiritual health components. SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT FINDINGS. Imagery, meditation, and group support activities may address various components of spiritual health such as meaning and purpose in life; self-awareness; and connectedness with self, others, and a larger reality. In turn, positive changes in health behaviors such as communication, diet activity, and treatment compliance were noted, and a variety of beneficial physical and emotional health outcomes such as heart disease reversal, decreased cancer mortality, reduced anxiety, and improved mood states were reported. MAJOR CONCLUSIONS. Health educators are in a position to develop, implement, and evaluate spiritual health interventions within the context of comprehensive programs. There is a need for training in the theoretical and methodologic foundations of interventions like meditation, imagery, and group support and a need for more evaluation research in the impact of such interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mental Healing
  • Religion and Medicine*
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control