Research on meaning-making and health in secular society: secular, spiritual and religious existential orientations

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Oct;71(7):1292-1299. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.06.024. Epub 2010 Jul 13.


This article proposes a framework of concepts for the field of existential meaning-making in secular cultures such as those of Northern Europe. Seeking an operational approach, we have narrowed the field's components down to a number of basic domains and dimensions that provide a more authentic cultural basis for research in secular society. Reviewing the literature, three main domains of existential meaning-making emerge: Secular, spiritual, and religious. In reconfirming these three domains, we propose to couple them with the three dimensions of cognition (knowing), practice (doing), and importance (being), resulting in a conceptual framework that can serve as a fundamental heuristic and methodological research tool for mapping the field of existential meaning-making and health. The proposed grid might contribute to clearer understanding of the multidimensional nature of existential meaning-making and as a guide for posing adequate research and clinical questions in the field.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cognition
  • Culture
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Research
  • Secularism*
  • Spiritualism / psychology*