Spirituality and Positive Psychology Go Hand in Hand: An Investigation of Multiple Empirically Derived Profiles and Related Protective Benefits

Abstract

We investigate the relationship between personal spirituality and positive psychology traits as potentially presented in multiple profiles, rather than monolithically across a full sample. A sample of 3966 adolescents and emerging adults (aged 18–25, mean = 20.19, SD = 2.08) and 2014 older adults (aged 26–82, mean = 38.41, SD = 11.26) completed a survey assessing daily spiritual experiences (relationship with a Higher Power and sense of a sacred world), forgiveness, gratitude, optimism, grit, and meaning. To assess the relative protective benefits of potential profiles, we also assessed the level of depressive symptoms and frequency of substance use (tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, and heavy alcohol use). Latent class analysis (LCA) was used to examine common subgroupings of study participants across report on personal spirituality and positive psychology scales in each age cohort, with potential difference between latent classes then tested in level of depressive symptoms and degree of substance use. LCA determined a four-class and a three-class best-fitting models for the younger and older cohorts, respectively. Level of personal spirituality and level of positive psychology traits were found to coincide in 83 % of adolescents and emerging adults and in 71 % of older adults, suggesting personal spirituality and positive psychology traits go hand in hand. A minority subgroup of “virtuous humanists” showed high levels of positive psychology traits but low levels of personal spirituality, across both age cohorts. Whereas level of depression was found to be inversely associated with positive psychology traits and personal spirituality, uniquely personal spirituality was protective against degree of substance use across both age cohorts. Overall interpretation of the study findings suggests that personal spirituality may be foundational to positive psychology traits in the majority of people.

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Acknowledgments

The authors extend gratitude to the BOT Foundation that made this study possible.

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Correspondence to Lisa Miller.

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Barton, Y.A., Miller, L. Spirituality and Positive Psychology Go Hand in Hand: An Investigation of Multiple Empirically Derived Profiles and Related Protective Benefits. J Relig Health 54, 829–843 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-015-0045-2

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Keywords

  • Spirituality
  • Positive psychology
  • Depression
  • Substance use