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STUDY: People who are more spiritual are better able to deal with the discomforts and limitations of chronic disease
JOURNAL: American Geriatrics Society
AUTHORS: S. Chung
ABSTRACT: People who are more spiritual are better able to deal with the discomforts and limitations of chronic disease than their less-spiritual counterparts. That's the conclusion of a Johns Hopkins study presented at the American Geriatrics Society's annual meeting.
COMMENTARY: Recent studies have suggested that acutely ill people with strong religious faith or an optimistic personality may get better quicker or live longer than people who lack those traits. The aim of the Hopkins study was to assess the relation between spirituality, disease severity and perceptions of well-being in patients with chronic disease.
To do so, the researchers examined data on 77 patients aged 30 or older who had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for a minimum of 2 years. Spirituality was defined as "the capacity of an individual to stand outside of his/her immediate sense of time and place and to view life from a larger, more detached perspective."
While being spiritual did not lessen the effects of the arthritis, reduce pain or improve mobility, people who were more spiritual tended to be happier and feel better about their general health, the study found.
Putting this into practice could be as simple as teaching relaxation skills, meditation and yoga, said Hopkins investigator S. Chung. The way we define spirituality, it's not necessarily a particular faith orientation, but certain things like feeling like a part of the community by volunteering. And for elderly people, there's so many things that could be done to make them feel part of the mainstream of things.
Having a belief system can really help to lower stress and during times of sickness and health.