Relationships Among Spirituality, Religious Practices, Personality Factors, and Health for Five Different Faith Traditions

Abstract

To determine: (1) differences in spirituality, religiosity, personality, and health for different faith traditions; and (2) the relative degree to which demographic, spiritual, religious, and personality variables simultaneously predict health outcomes for different faith traditions. Cross-sectional analysis of 160 individuals from five different faith traditions including Buddhists (40), Catholics (41), Jews (22), Muslims (26), and Protestants (31). Brief multidimensional measure of religiousness/spirituality (BMMRS; Fetzer in Multidimensional measurement of religiousness/spirituality for use in health research, Fetzer Institute, Kalamazoo, 1999); NEO-five factor inventory (NEO-FFI; in Revised NEO personality inventory (NEO PI-R) and the NEO-five factor inventory (NEO-FFI) professional manual, Psychological Assessment Resources, Odessa, Costa and McCrae 1992); Medical outcomes scale-short form (SF-36; in SF-36 physical and mental health summary scores: A user’s manual, The Health Institute, New England Medical Center, Boston, Ware et al. 1994). (1) ANOVAs indicated that there were no significant group differences in health status, but that there were group differences in spirituality and religiosity. (2) Pearson’s correlations for the entire sample indicated that better mental health is significantly related to increased spirituality, increased positive personality traits (i.e., extraversion) and decreased personality traits (i.e., neuroticism and conscientiousness). In addition, spirituality is positively correlated with positive personality traits (i.e., extraversion) and negatively with negative personality traits (i.e., neuroticism). (3) Hierarchical regressions indicated that personality predicted a greater proportion of unique variance in health outcomes than spiritual variables. Different faith traditions have similar health status, but differ in terms of spiritual, religious, and personality factors. For all faith traditions, the presence of positive and absence of negative personality traits are primary predictors of positive health (and primarily mental health). Spiritual variables, other than forgiveness, add little to the prediction of unique variance in physical or mental health after considering personality. Spirituality can be conceptualized as a characterological aspect of personality or a distinct construct, but spiritual interventions should continue to be used in clinical practice and investigated in health research.

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Acknowledgments

This article was supported with funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Correspondence to Brick Johnstone.

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Johnstone, B., Yoon, D.P., Cohen, D. et al. Relationships Among Spirituality, Religious Practices, Personality Factors, and Health for Five Different Faith Traditions. J Relig Health 51, 1017–1041 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-012-9615-8

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Keywords

  • BMMRS
  • Health
  • NEO-FFI
  • Personality
  • Religion
  • SF-36
  • Spirituality