Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 497-507

First online:

The distinct roles of spirituality and religiosity in physical and mental health after collective trauma: a national longitudinal study of responses to the 9/11 attacks

  • Daniel N. McIntoshAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Denver Email author 
  • , Michael J. PoulinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University at Buffalo, State University of New York
  • , Roxane Cohen SilverAffiliated withDepartments of Psychology and Social Behavior and Medicine, University of California
  • , E. Alison HolmanAffiliated withProgram in Nursing Science, University of California

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Researchers have identified health implications of religiosity and spirituality but have rarely addressed differences between these dimensions. The associations of religiosity and spirituality with physical and mental health were examined in a national sample (N = 890) after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (9/11). Health information was collected before 9/11 and health, religiosity, and spirituality were assessed longitudinally during six waves of data collection over the next 3 years. Religiosity (i.e., participation in religious social structures) predicted higher positive affect (β = .12), fewer cognitive intrusions (β = −.07), and lower odds of new onset mental (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = .88) and musculoskeletal (IRR = .94) ailments. Spirituality (i.e., subjective commitment to spiritual or religious beliefs) predicted higher positive affect (β = .09), lower odds of new onset infectious ailments (IRR = 0.83), more intrusions (β = .10) and a more rapid decline in intrusions over time (β = −.10). Religiosity and spirituality independently predict health after a collective trauma, controlling for pre-event health status; they are not interchangeable indices of religion.


Religion Spirituality Physical health Mental health Post-traumatic stress Intrusions Positive affect Terrorism