"But for some individuals, even if they have even the smallest degree of negative spirituality -- basically, when individuals believe they are ill because they have done something wrong and God is punishing them -- their health is worse," Johnstone noted.

Johnstone and his colleagues studied nearly 200 individuals to find out how their spiritual beliefs affected their health outcomes. Individuals in the study had a range of health conditions, such as cancer, traumatic brain injury or chronic pain, and others were healthy.

The researchers divided the individuals into two groups: a negative spirituality group that consisted of those who reported feeling abandoned or punished by a higher power, and a no negative spirituality group that consisted of people who did not feel abandoned or punished by a higher power.

Those in the negative spirituality group reported significantly worse pain as well as worse physical and mental health while those with positive spirituality reported better mental health.

Targeted interventions to counteract negative spiritual beliefs could help some individuals decrease pain and improve their overall health, the researchers said.

The study was published in the Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health.

 

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