Spirituality and well-being: an exploratory study of the patient perspective

Soc Sci Med. 2001 Dec;53(11):1503-11. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(00)00439-1.


Spirituality has become a construct of interest in American health care: however, there remains a limited understanding of how patients themselves describe spirituality and view its impact on their health and well-being. The purpose of this study was to identify and describe elements of patient-reported, health-related spirituality. A qualitative study utilized focus group interviews of 17 women with type 2 diabetes mellitus and 18 women with no self-identified illness. Purposeful sampling of participants who had prior experiences in healthcare settings, with or without a chronic illness, guided the sampling strategy. Editing analysis of the interview transcripts were coded into conceptual categories. Participant narratives were grouped into eight general categories: (1) change in functional status, (2) core beliefs, (3) medical/disease state information gathering and processing, (4) interpretation and understanding, (5) life scheme, (6) positive intentionality, (7) agency, and (8) subjective well-being. A change in functional status was the catalyst for two process-oriented categories; medical/disease state information gathering and processing, and the higher-order interpretation and understanding, or meaning making of life events. Core beliefs were sources that grounded and maintained an interpretative structure through which participants viewed their life events and positively framed their experiences. Life scheme described a heuristic framework through which all life events were viewed. Positive intentionality was participant belief in the capacity to execute a specific action that was required for a desired outcome. Participants tied the attitudes and practices of positive intentionality with agency, or the use or exertion of power through belief, practice, or community. Participants outlined both a positive affective and cognitive component of subjective well-being. Patients describe several interrelated elements and a process of events in their depiction of spirituality in healthcare settings. Patient-reported spirituality is predominantly a cognitive construct incorporating the domains of life scheme and positive intentionality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / psychology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Spirituality*