Objective: Many American patients depend on religion to cope, but less is known about the spiritual/religious (SpR) characteristics of medical patients in Europe, a more secular environment. We examined self-categorizations of SpR (spiritual, religious, both, neither), patients' search for meaningful support, trust in higher source, positive interpretation of disease, and support in relations of life through SpR, as measured with the SpREUK questionnaire, in German medical patients.
Method: We analyzed data on 710 West-German patients with a mean age of 54. Forty-two percent had chronic pain diseases, 25% cancer, 10% multiple sclerosis, 21% other chronic diseases, and 3% acute diseases.
Results: The general interest in search for meaningful support was moderate. Trust in a higher source and support in life through SpR were rated higher, while almost all patients had a positive interpretation of their diseases, i.e, hint to change life. The interest in SpR issues was highest in cancer patients and lowest in patients with multiple sclerosis. Univariate analyses confirmed that the SpR self-categorization was the strongest predictor of all four factors, while trust in a higher source was also affected by religious affiliation and age. Positive interpretations of disease correlated well with search for meaningful support.
Conclusions: Patients with chronic diseases differ with respect to their SpR self-categorizations and may thus utilize different aspects of SpR. Cancer patients, in particular, often depend on their trust in a higher power and in conventional religious activities to help them to cope with their illness.