Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 1248–1262 | Cite as

Spirit or Fleeting Apparition? Why Spirituality’s Link with Social Support Might Be Incrementally Invalid

  • James Benjamin Schuurmans-Stekhoven
Original Paper


Previously published path models apparently confirm the belief-as-benefit perspective that spirituality boosts well-being via social support. The broad acceptance of such findings has motivated recommendations that clinical psychologists and psychiatrists routinely assess their patients’ spiritual status. Skeptics retort that past findings are statistically confounded and that numinous beliefs and well-being are unrelated. A multivariate regression analysis testing whether spirituality explains variance in social support after personality traits are simultaneously included is reported. Although spirituality displays a significant positive correlation and partial correlation (after controlling for socio-demographics) with social support, regression analysis specifying agreeableness and conscientiousness—individual differences related to both spirituality and social support—as predictors renders spirituality nonsignificant. In summary, spirituality’s correlation with social support appears spurious; demonstrating the hazards of relying on simple associations and highlighting the urgent need for researchers to utilize statistical methods capable of establishing cause and parsing effects across rival theoretical explanations.


Social support Spirituality Well-being Agreeableness Conscientiousness 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyCharles Sturt UniversityBathurstAustralia

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