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University of Missouri

Body and Spirit

Positive spirituality can improve health.

stethoscope on bible
“In general, the more religious or spiritual you are, the healthier you are,” says Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology at MU. If your approach to spirituality is positive, that is. “For some individuals, even if they have the smallest degree of negative spirituality — basically, when individuals believe they’re ill because they’ve done something wrong and God is punishing them — their health is worse.” The finding, published in the Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, comes from Johnstone’s study of nearly 200 subjects’ spiritual beliefs and health. Some participants were healthy; others had conditions such as cancer and traumatic brain injury. A negative‐spirituality group emerged whose members reported feeling abandoned or punished by a higher power. This group reported significantly worse pain, physical health and mental health than a positive‐spirituality group.