The British Journal of Psychiatry
Religion, spirituality and mental health: results from a national study of English households
Michael King, Louise Marston, Sally McManus, Terry Brugha, Howard Meltzer, Paul Bebbington
  • Declaration of interest

    None.

Abstract

Background

Religious participation or belief may predict better mental health but most research is American and measures of spirituality are often conflated with well-being.

Aims

To examine associations between a spiritual or religious understanding of life and psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses.

Method

We analysed data collected from interviews with 7403 people who participated in the third National Psychiatric Morbidity Study in England.

Results

Of the participants 35% had a religious understanding of life, 19% were spiritual but not religious and 46% were neither religious nor spiritual. Religious people were similar to those who were neither religious nor spiritual with regard to the prevalence of mental disorders, except that the former were less likely to have ever used drugs (odds ratio (OR) = 0.73, 95% CI 0.60–0.88) or be a hazardous drinker (OR = 0.81, 95% CI 0.69–0.96). Spiritual people were more likely than those who were neither religious nor spiritual to have ever used (OR = 1.24, 95% CI 1.02–1.49) or be dependent on drugs (OR = 1.77, 95% CI 1.20–2.61), and to have abnormal eating attitudes (OR = 1.46, 95% CI 1.10–1.94), generalised anxiety disorder (OR = 1.50, 95% CI 1.09–2.06), any phobia (OR = 1.72, 95% CI 1.07–2.77) or any neurotic disorder (OR = 1.37, 95% CI 1.12–1.68). They were also more likely to be taking psychotropic medication (OR = 1.40, 95% CI 1.05–1.86).

Conclusions

People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.