Spirituality and health: what's the evidence and what's needed?

Ann Behav Med. Winter 2002;24(1):3-13. doi: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2401_02.


In this article, we familiarize readers with some recent empirical evidence about possible associations between religious and/or spiritual (RS) factors and health outcomes. In considering this evidence, we believe a healthy skepticism is in order One needs to remain open to the possibility that RS-related beliefs and behaviors may influence health, yet one needs empirical evidence based on well-controlled studies that support these claims and conclusions. We hope to introduce the dismissing critic to suggestive data that may create tempered doubt and to introduce the uncritical advocate to issues and concerns that will encourage greater modesty in the making of claims and drawing of conclusions. We comment on the following questions: Do specific RS factors influence health outcomes? What possible mechanisms might explain a relation, if one exists? Are there any implications for health professionals at this point in time? Recommendations concern the need to improve research designs and measurement strategies and to clarify conceptualizations of RSfactors. RSfactors appear to be associated with physical and overall health, but the relation appears far more complex and modest than some contend. Which specific RS factors enhance or endanger health and well-being remains unclear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Religion and Medicine*