Religiosity, spirituality, and end-of-life planning: a single-site survey of medical inpatients

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2012 Dec;44(6):843-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2011.12.277. Epub 2012 Jun 22.


Context: Prior studies suggest that terminally ill patients who use religious coping are less likely to have advance directives and more likely to opt for heroic end-of-life measures. Yet, no study to date has examined whether end-of-life practices are associated with measures of religiosity and spirituality.

Objectives: To assess the relationship between general measures of patient religiosity and spirituality and patients' preferences for care at the end of life.

Methods: We examined data from the University of Chicago Hospitalist Study, which gathers sociodemographic and clinical information from all consenting general internal medicine patients at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Primary outcomes were whether the patient had an advance directive, a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order, a durable power of attorney for health care, and an informally designated decision maker. Primary predictors were religious attendance, intrinsic religiosity, and self-rated spirituality.

Results: The sample population (n=8308) was predominantly African American (73%) and female (60%). In this population, 1.5% had advance directives and 10.4% had DNR orders. Half (51%) of the patients had specified a decision maker. White patients were more likely than African American patients to have an advance directive (odds ratio [OR] 2.1; 95% CI 1.1-4.0) and a DNR order (OR 1.7; 95% CI 1.0-2.9). Patients reporting high intrinsic religiosity were more likely to have specified a decision maker than those reporting low intrinsic religiosity (OR 1.3; 95% CI 1.1-1.6). The same was true for those with high compared with low spirituality (OR 1.3; 95% CI 1.1-1.5). Religious characteristics were not significantly associated with having an advance directive or DNR order.

Conclusion: Among general medicine inpatients at an urban academic medical center, those who were highly religious and/or spiritual were more likely to have a designated decision maker to help with end-of-life decisions but did not differ from other patients in their likelihood of having an advance directive or DNR order.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advance Directives / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Chicago / epidemiology
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Patient Preference / statistics & numerical data
  • Proxy / statistics & numerical data
  • Religion*
  • Resuscitation Orders*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Spirituality*
  • Terminal Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult