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Existential Well-Being: Spirituality or Well-Being?

Visser, Anja PhD; Garssen, Bert PhD; Vingerhoets, Ad JJM PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: March 2017 - Volume 205 - Issue 3 - p 234–241
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000617
Original Articles

Measures of spirituality often contain the dimension existential well-being (EWB). However, EWB has been found to overlap with emotional and psychological well-being. Using the Spiritual Attitude and Involvement List (SAIL), we have further investigated the overlap between aspects of spirituality and of well-being among patients with cancer, by determining a) the divergent validity of the subscales of the SAIL compared with a well-being questionnaire and b) the differences in their associations to changes in pain and fatigue, and the occurrence of negative life events. Our findings suggest that a sense of trust that one is able to cope with difficulties of life belongs to the realm of well-being, instead of spirituality. Other aspects, such as a sense of meaning in life, seem more similar to spirituality than to well-being. These results can bring researchers a step further toward constructing “pure” spirituality and well-being measures, which will allow them to investigate the (causal) relationship between these constructs.

*Helen Dowling Institute, Centre for Psycho-Oncology, Bilthoven; and †Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Tilburg University, the Netherlands.

Anja Visser, PhD, is now at University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.

Send reprint requests to Anja Visser, PhD, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands. E-mail:

This study was funded by the Dutch Cancer Society and approved by the Ethical Review Committee of the University Medical Centre Utrecht.

This article is based on a paper presentation at the International Association for the Psychology of Religion congress 2013, Lausanne, Switzerland.

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