Advertisement

Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 1503–1519 | Cite as

Benevolent Images of God, Gratitude, and Physical Health Status

  • Neal Krause
  • Robert A. Emmons
  • Gail Ironson
Original Paper

Abstract

This study has two goals. The first is to assess whether a benevolent image of God is associated with better physical health. The second goal is to examine the aspects of congregational life that is associated with a benevolent image of God. Data from a new nationwide survey (N = 1774) are used to test the following core hypotheses: (1) people who attend worship services more often and individuals who receive more spiritual support from fellow church members (i.e., informal assistance that is intended to increase the religious beliefs and behaviors of the recipient) will have more benevolent images of God, (2) individuals who believe that God is benevolent will feel more grateful to God, (3) study participants who are more grateful to God will be more hopeful about the future, and (4) greater hope will be associated with better health. The data provide support for each of these relationships.

Keywords

God images Health Gratitude 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a Grant from the John Tempelton Foundation (Grant 40077).

References

  1. Barna, G. (2006). The state of the church: 2006. Ventura, CA: The Barna Group.Google Scholar
  2. Berger, P. L. (1967). The sacred canopy: Elements of a sociological theory. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  3. Braam, A. W., Jonker, H. S., Mooi, B., De Ritter, D., Beekman, A. T., & Deeg, D. J. (2008). God image and mood in old age: Results from a community-based pilot study in the Netherlands. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 11, 221–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bradshaw, M., Ellison, C. G., & Flannelly, K. J. (2008). Prayer, God imagery, and symptoms of psychopathology. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47, 644–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (2014). Dispositional optimism. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18, 293–299.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, S., & Rodriguez, M. S. (1995). Pathways linking affective disturbances and physical disorders. Health Psychology, 14, 374–380.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. DeShon, R. P. (1998). A cautionary note on measurement error correlations in structural equation models. Psychological Methods, 3, 412–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. du Toit, M., & du Toit, S. (2001). Interactive LISREL: User’s guide. Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  9. Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An empirical Investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377–389.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Exline, J. J., Grubbs, J. B., & Homolka, S. J. (2015). Seeing God as cruel and distant: Links with divine struggles involving anger, doubt, and fear of God’s disapproval. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 25, 29–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Feldman, D. B., & Sills, J. R. (2013). Hope and cardiovascular health-promoting behavior: Education alone is not enough. Psychology and Health, 28, 727–745.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fetzer Institute/National Institute on Aging Working Group. (1999). Multidimensional measurement of religiousness/spirituality for use in health research. Kalamazoo, MI: John E. Fetzer Institute.Google Scholar
  13. Gall, T. L., Kristjansson, E., Charbonneau, C., & Florack, P. (2009). A longitudinal study of the role of spirituality in response to the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 32, 174–186.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gallagher, M. W., & Lopez, S. J. (2009). Positive expectations and mental health: Identifying the unique contributions of hope and optimism. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 548–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoy, B. D., Suldo, S. M., & Mendez, L. R. (2013). Links between parents’ and children’s levels of gratitude, life satisfaction, and hope. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1343–1361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cut points for fit indices in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Psychological Methods, 1, 130–149.Google Scholar
  17. Idler, E. L., Hudson, S. V., & Leventhal, H. (1999). The meanings of self-rated health. Research on Aging, 21, 458–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ironson, G., Stuetzle, R., Ironson, D., Balbin, E., Kremer, H., George, A., et al. (2011). View of God as benevolent and forgiving or punishing and judgmental predicts HIV disease progression. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 34, 414–425.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jiang, F., Yue, X., Lu, S., Yu, G., & Zhu, F. (2015). How belief in a just world benefits mental health: The effects of optimism and gratitude. Social Indicators Research. doi: 10.1007/s11205-015-0877-x.Google Scholar
  20. Johnson, K. A., Li, Y. J., Cohen, A. B., & Okun, M. A. (2013). Friends in high places: The influence of authoritarian and benevolent God-concepts on social attitude and behaviors. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 5, 15–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Khosravi, Z., Pasdar, Z., & Farahani, Z. K. (2011). Investigation of positive and negative conception of God and its relation with pathological and non-pathological guilt feeling. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, 1378–1380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2005). Attachment, evolution, and the psychology of religion. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  23. Koenig, H. G., King, D. E., & Carson, V. B. (2012). Handbook of religion and health (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Krause, N. (2002). A comprehensive strategy for developing closed-ended survey items for use in studies of older adults. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 57B, S263–S274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krause, N. (2008). Aging in the church: How social relationships affect health. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.Google Scholar
  26. Krause, N., & Ellison, C. G. (2009). The social environment of the church and feelings of gratitude toward God. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 3, 191–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Krause, N., Evans, L. A., Powers, G., & Hayward, R. D. (2012). Feeling grateful to God: A qualitative inquiry. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7, 119–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Krause, N., & Hayward, R. D. (2014). Religious involvement, practical wisdom, and self-rated health. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 16, 629–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lashani, Z., Shaeiri, M. R., Moghadam, M. A., & Galzari, M. (2012). Effect of gratitude strategies on positive affectivity, happiness, and happiness. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, 18, 164–166.Google Scholar
  30. Lazar, A. (2014). The relation between God concept and prayer style among male religious Israeli Jews. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. doi: 10.1080/10508619.2014.935685.Google Scholar
  31. Little, T. D. (2013). Longitudinal structural equation modeling. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  32. Lundberg, C. D. (2010). Unifying truths of the world’s religions. New Fairfield, CT: Heavenlight Press.Google Scholar
  33. Magaziner, J., Bassett, S. S., Hebel, J. R., & Cruber-Baldini, A. (1996). Use of proxies to measure health and functional status in epidemiologic studies of community dwelling women age 65 years and older. American Journal of Epidemiology, 143, 283–290.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maynard, E. A., Gorsuch, R. L., & Bjorck, J. P. (2001). Religious coping style, concept of God, and personal religious variables in threat, loss, and challenge situations. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40, 65–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112–127.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McCullough, M. E., Kirkpatrick, S., Emmons, R. A., & Larsen, D. (2001). Gratitude as a moral affect. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249–266.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McFadden, S. H., Knepple, A. M., & Armstrong, J. A. (2003). Length and locus of friendship influence, church members’ sense of social support, and comfort with sharing emotions. Journal of Religious Gerontology, 15, 39–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Newsom, J. T., Mahan, T. L., Rook, K. S., & Krause, N. (2008). Stable negative social exchanges and health. Health Psychology, 27, 78–86.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ouellette, J. A., & Wood, W. (1998). Habit and intention in everyday life: The multiple processes by which past behavior predicts future behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 54–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rasmussen, H. N., Scheier, M. F., & Greenhouse, J. B. (2009). Optimism and physical health: A meta-analytic review. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 37, 239–256.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rosmarin, D. H., Pirutinsky, S., Cohen, A. B., Galler, Y., & Krumrei, E. J. (2011). Grateful to God or just plain grateful? A comparison of religious and general gratitude. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 389–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roy, R. (2011). Social support, health, and illness: A complicated relationship. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  43. Royce, J. (1912/2001). The sources of religious insight. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press.Google Scholar
  44. Scheier, M. F., & Carver, C. S. (1985). Optimism, coping, and health: Assessment and implications of generalized outcome expectancies. Health Psychology, 4, 219–247.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Scioli, A., Chamberlin, C. M., Samor, C. M., Lapointe, A. B., Campbell, T. L., Macleod, A. R., & McLenon, J. (1997). A prospective study of hope, optimism, and health. Psychological Reports, 81, 723–733.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Settersten, R. A., & Trauten, M. E. (2009). The new terrain of old age: Hallmarks, freedoms, and risks. In V. L. Bengston, D. Gans, N. M. Putney, & M. Silverstein (Eds.), Handbook of theories of aging (2nd ed., pp. 455–470). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  47. Simmel, G. (1964). The sociology of Georg Simmel (K. Wolff, editor and translator). New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  48. Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 249–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stark, R. (2008). What Americans believe. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Stark, R., & Finke, R. (2000). Acts of faith: Explaining the human side of religion. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  51. Steenwyk, S. A., Atkins, D. C., Bedics, J. D., & Whitley, B. E. (2010). Images of God as they relate to life satisfaction and hopelessness. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 20, 85–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Watkins, P. C. (2014). Gratitude and the good life: Toward a psychology of appreciation. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Widaman, K. F. (2012). Exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis. In H. Cooper (Ed.), APA handbook of research methods in psychology (Vol. 3, pp. 361–389). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  54. Wong-McDonald, A., & Gorsuch, R. L. (2004). A multivariate theory of God concept, religious motivation, locus of control, coping, and spiritual well-being. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 32, 318–334.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public HealthUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.University of California – DavisDavisUSA
  3. 3.University of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

Personalised recommendations