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Spirituality, not religion, health helpful

  |   Aug. 30, 2012 at 5:35 PM
COLUMBIA, Mo., Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants with a degree of spirituality have better mental health, U.S. researchers say.

Dan Cohen of the University of Missouri said despite differences in rituals and beliefs among the world's major religions, spirituality often enhances health regardless of a person's faith.

"With increased spirituality people reduce their sense of self and feel a greater sense of oneness and connectedness with the rest of the universe," Cohen said in a statement. "What was interesting was that frequency of participation in religious activities or the perceived degree of congregational support was not found to be significant in the relationships between personality, spirituality, religion and health."

The researchers analyzed three surveys to determine if correlations existed among participants' self-reported mental and physical health, personality factors, and spirituality in Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants.

The study, published in the Journal of Religion and Health, found across all five faiths, a greater degree of spirituality was related to better mental health, specifically lower levels of neuroticism and greater extraversion. Forgiveness was the only spiritual trait predictive of mental health after personality variables were considered, the study said.

"Our prior research shows that the mental health of people recovering from different medical conditions, such as cancer, stroke, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury, appears to be related significantly to positive spiritual beliefs and especially congregational support and spiritual interventions," Cohen said in a statement. "Spiritual beliefs may be a coping device to help individuals deal emotionally with stress."

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