Instruments measuring spirituality in clinical research: a systematic review

J Gen Intern Med. 2011 Nov;26(11):1345-57. doi: 10.1007/s11606-011-1769-7. Epub 2011 Jul 2.


Introduction: Numerous instruments have been developed to assess spirituality and measure its association with health outcomes. This study's aims were to identify instruments used in clinical research that measure spirituality; to propose a classification of these instruments; and to identify those instruments that could provide information on the need for spiritual intervention.

Methods: A systematic literature search in MEDLINE, CINHAL, PsycINFO, ATLA, and EMBASE databases, using the terms "spirituality" and "adult$," and limited to journal articles was performed to identify clinical studies that used a spiritual assessment instrument. For each instrument identified, measured constructs, intended goals, and data on psychometric properties were retrieved. A conceptual and a functional classification of instruments were developed.

Results: Thirty-five instruments were retrieved and classified into measures of general spirituality (N = 22), spiritual well-being (N = 5), spiritual coping (N = 4), and spiritual needs (N = 4) according to the conceptual classification. Instruments most frequently used in clinical research were the FACIT-Sp and the Spiritual Well-Being Scale. Data on psychometric properties were mostly limited to content validity and inter-item reliability. According to the functional classification, 16 instruments were identified that included at least one item measuring a current spiritual state, but only three of those appeared suitable to address the need for spiritual intervention.

Conclusions: Instruments identified in this systematic review assess multiple dimensions of spirituality, and the proposed classifications should help clinical researchers interested in investigating the complex relationship between spirituality and health. Findings underscore the scarcity of instruments specifically designed to measure a patient's current spiritual state. Moreover, the relatively limited data available on psychometric properties of these instruments highlight the need for additional research to determine whether they are suitable in identifying the need for spiritual interventions.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Psychometrics*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Religion
  • Spirituality*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires