, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 157-167

The Unique Effects of Forgiveness on Health: An Exploration of Pathways

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The relationship of forgiveness, both state and trait, to health was assessed. Eighty-one community adults completed a packet of questionnaires and participated in a laboratory interview about a time of hurt or betrayal. Heart rate and blood pressure were recorded during a 10 min baseline, the interview and during a recovery period; interviews were structured around a framework of questions and videotaped. Four measures of forgiveness were all statistically associated with five measures of health (physical symptoms, medications used, sleep quality, fatigue, and somatic complaints). Trait forgiveness was associated with decreased reactivity (rate-pressure product) to the interview, but sympathetic reactivity did not account for the trait forgiveness–health association. Four mechanisms or pathways by which forgiveness could lead to fewer physical symptoms were examined: spirituality, social skills, reduction in negative affect, and reduction in stress. All factors either partially or fully mediated the effect of forgiveness on health; however, the strongest mediator for both state and trait forgiveness was reduction in negative affect. For state forgiveness, the second strongest mediator was reduction in stress; for trait forgiveness, both conflict management and reduction in stress were strong contributors.