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The relationship between religion/spirituality and physical health, mental health, and pain in a chronic pain population

Rippentrop, Elizabeth A.a,*; Altmaier, Elizabeth M.b; Chen, Joseph J.a; Found, Ernest M.a; Keffala, Valerie J.a

doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2005.05.008

This study sought to better understand the relationship between religion/spirituality and physical health and mental health in 122 patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. The current study conceptualized religion/spirituality as a multidimensional factor, and measured it with a new measure of religion/spirituality for research on health outcomes (Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religion/Spirituality). Pain patients' religious and spiritual beliefs appear different than the general population (e.g. pain patients feel less desire to reduce pain in the world and feel more abandoned by God). Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed significant associations between components of religion/spirituality and physical and mental health. Private religious practice (e.g. prayer, meditation, consumption of religious media) was inversely related to physical health outcomes, indicating that those who were experiencing worse physical health were more likely to engage in private religious activities, perhaps as a way to cope with their poor health. Forgiveness, negative religious coping, daily spiritual experiences, religious support, and self-rankings of religious/spiritual intensity significantly predicted mental health status. Religion/spirituality was unrelated to pain intensity and life interference due to pain. This study establishes relationships between religion/spirituality and health in a chronic pain population, and emphasizes that religion/spirituality may have both costs and benefits for the health of those with chronic pain.

aDepartment of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242-1088, USA

bDepartment of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA

*Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 319 353 8708; fax: +1 319 356 4501.


Received 18 March 2004; received in revised form 18 January 2005; accepted 3 May 2005.

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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