Do patients want doctors to talk about spirituality? A systematic literature review

Patient Educ Couns. 2015 Nov;98(11):1320-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2015.04.017. Epub 2015 May 19.


Objective: The aim of this systematic literature review was to ascertain the patient perspective regarding the role of the doctor in the discussion of spirituality.

Methods: We conducted a systematic search in ten databases from inception to January 2015. Eligible papers reported on original research including patient reports of discussion of spirituality in a medical consultation. Papers were separated into qualitative and quantitative for the purposes of analysis and quality appraisal with QualSyst. Papers were merged for the final synthesis.

Results: 54 studies comprising 12,327 patients were included. In the majority of studies over half the sample thought it was appropriate for the doctor to enquire about spiritual needs in at least some circumstances (range 2.1-100%, median 70.5%), but patient preferences were not straightforward.

Conclusion: While a majority of patients express interest in discussion of religion and spirituality in medical consultations, there is a mismatch in perception between patients and doctors regarding what constitutes this discussion and therefore whether it has taken place.

Practice implications: This review demonstrated that many patients have a strong interest in discussing spirituality in the medical consultation. Doctors should endeavor to identify which patients would welcome such conversations.

Keywords: Doctor–patient communication; Physician–patient communication; Religion; Review; Spiritual care; Spirituality.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Patient Preference*
  • Physician's Role*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Spirituality*