Exploring the link between religious attitudes and subjective well-being in chronic pain patients

Int J Psychiatry Med. 2009;39(4):393-404. doi: 10.2190/PM.39.4.d.


Objective: The aim of the present study was to explore the relations between religious attitudes and subjective well-being in a sample of chronic pain (CP) patients and to investigate whether these associations would differ from those obtained with healthy controls.

Method: A total of 155 CP patients (72% women) and 166 healthy controls (72% women) completed questionnaires on pain, religious attitudes, and subjective well-being. The religious attitudes focused both on religiosity as such (Inclusion vs Exclusion of Transcendence) as on the cognitive approach of religious contents (Symbolic vs Literal).

Results: Mean-level analyses showed significant differences between the CP and control samples on subjective well-being and Literal Exclusion. Mediation analyses found a direct influence of sample (CP vs control) on subjective well-being as well as an indirect effect via Literal Exclusion. Correlation analyses revealed that Literal Exclusion correlated negatively with well-being in both samples, whereas Literal Inclusion did not. The differential variable between the two samples was the symbolic approach of religion (Symbolic Inclusion and Exclusion), which was significantly associated with higher levels of well-being only in the CP sample.

Conclusion: A literal approach toward religion in combination with a rejection of religion (Literal Exclusion) was, in general-both for CP patients as for healthy controls-associated with lower levels of well-being. In CP patients (but not in healthy controls), a symbolic approach toward religion (regardless of Inclusion or Exclusion of religion) was significantly associated with higher levels of subjective well-being.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Sick Role
  • Young Adult