Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 497–507 | Cite as

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. McIntosh
  • Michael J. Poulin
  • Roxane Cohen Silver
  • E. Alison Holman


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 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel N. McIntosh
    • 1
  • Michael J. Poulin
    • 2
  • Roxane Cohen Silver
    • 3
  • E. Alison Holman
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of DenverDenverUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity at Buffalo, State University of New YorkBuffaloUSA
  3. 3.Departments of Psychology and Social Behavior and MedicineUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  4. 4.Program in Nursing ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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