The Role of Religion and Spirituality in Health and Illness

  • Kyung Bong Koh


There is mounting evidence that religious cognitions and behaviors can offer effective resources for dealing with stress. Religious involvement may promote better health by enhancing feelings of self-esteem, or a sense of intrinsic moral self-worth, feelings of efficacy, or perception that one can master or have control over one’s personal affairs, promoting constructive coping responses, or enhancing social support. In particular, participation in religious communities may promote mental and physical well-being by regulating health-related behaviors in ways that decrease the risks of diseases. Spirituality such as sharing of religious thoughts and insights and praying for others is a source of social support. Studies on the health effects of religion/spirituality have linked it to reduced depression and anxiety, increased longevity, and other physical and psychological health benefits. Religion/spirituality may give depressed patients with physical diseases a sense of purpose and meaning in life as well as social support despite health problems. These effects may protect the patients from depression by enabling them to cope better with their illnesses. However, certain aspects of religiosity may undermine self-esteem and feelings of personal mastery. Religious coping styles such as passively leaving the responsibility for resolving crises entirely up to divine intervention are likely to yield pathological health-related consequences.


Religious cognitions Religious behaviors Self-esteem Social support Mental well-being Physical well-being Spirituality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyung Bong Koh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryYonsei University College of MedicineSeoulKorea

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