, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 59-68

Correlates of self-perceptions of spirituality in American adults

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Abstract

To advance knowledge in the study of spirituality and physical health, we examined sociodemographic, behavioral, and attitudinal correlates of self-perceptions of spirituality. Participants were a nationally representative sample of 1,422 adult respondents to the 1998 General Social Survey. They were asked, among other things, to rate themselves on the depth of their spirituality and the depth of their religiousness. Results indicated that, after adjustment for religiousness, self-perceptions of spirituality were positively correlated with being female (r = .07, p < .01), having a higher education (r = .12, p < .001), and having no religion (r = .10, p < .001) and inversely correlated with age (r = -.06, p < .05) and being Catholic (r = -.08, p < .01). After adjustment for these sociodemographic factors, self-perceptions of spirituality were associated with high levels of religious or spiritual activities (range in correlations = .12–.38, all p < .001), low cynical mistrust, and low political conservatism (both r = -.08, p < .01). The population was divided into 4 groups based on their self-perceptions of degree of spirituality and degree of religiousness. The spiritual and religious group had a higher frequency of attending services, praying, meditating, reading the Bible, and daily spiritual experience than any of the other 3 groups (all differences p < .05) and had less distress and less mistrust than the religious-only group (p < .05 for both). However, they were also more intolerant than either of the nonreligious groups (p < .05 for both) and similar on intolerance to the religious-only group. We conclude that sociodemographic factors could confound any observed association between spirituality and health and should be controlled. Moreover, individuals who perceive themselves to be both spiritual and religious may be at particularly low risk for morbidity and mortality based on their good psychological status and ongoing restorative activities.