The Relation between a Multidimensional Measure of Spirituality and Measures of Psychological Functioning among Secular Israeli Jews

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ABSTRACT: In order to examine the relation between a multidimensional measure of spiritual orientation and measures of psychological functioning among a sample of secular Israeli Jews, 112 research participants responded to the Spiritual Orientation Inventory (Elkins et al., 1988) and to self-report measures of depression and life satisfaction. Significant relations between total spirituality and both depression and life satisfaction were uncovered even after controlling for religiousness. Partial correlations revealed that life coherency, intrinsic values, and experiential aspects of spirituality were related to these measures even after controlling for other dimensions of spirituality. Regression analysis demonstrated the unique contribution of these three aspects of spirituality to the prediction of depression and of intrinsic spiritual values to the prediction of life satisfaction.

The positive relation between religion and health - both physical and psychological - has been supported extensively in the research literature (see Ellison & Levin, 1998; Hill & Pargament, 2003; Koenig, McCullough, & Larson, 2001; Miller & Kelley, 2005; Oman & Thoresen, 2005; Powell, Shahabi, & Thoresen, 2003). Although the majority of the research in this area is correlative in nature, a basic assumption of causality exists in the literature, i.e., religion leads to enhanced health. A number of explanations for the assumed positive influence of religion on health have been forwarded by researchers, most of whom presume that this influence is mediated by other psycho-social variables. For example, a religious individual may have access to more social support than an individual who is not actively religious (Powell et al., 2003); a religious individual may tend to lead to a healthier lifestyle than a non-religious individual (Hill & Butter, 1995).

However, although much of the literature dealing with the relation between religion and health tends to group religion/religiosity and spirituality together without differentiating between the two constructs, more and more researchers point out that religion and spirituality are not identical (e.g., Saucier & Skrzypinska, 2006; Westgate, 1996). A religious person may not necessarily be spiritual; a spiritual individual may not necessarily be religious. Koenig, McCullough, & Larson (2001) identified a number of characteristics that distinguish between religion and spirituality: religion is community focused whereas spirituality focuses on the individual; religion is more observable and objective whereas spirituality is less visible and more subjective; religion is formal and organized whereas spirituality is less formal and systematic; religion is behavior oriented whereas spirituality is more emotion oriented; religion is more authoritarian and doctrine oriented whereas spirituality is not. On the basis of these characteristics, Koenig et al. offer the following definitions for religion and spirituality: "Religion is an organized system of beliefs, practices, rituals, and symbols, designed (a) to facilitate closeness to the sacred or transcendent (God, higher power, or ultimate truth / reality) and (b) to foster an understanding of one's relationship and responsibility to others in living together in a community. Spirituality is the personal quest for understanding answers to ultimate questions about life, about meaning, and about relationship to the sacred or transcendent, which may (or may not) lead to or arise from the development of religious rituals and the formation of community" (p. 18).

On the assumption that spirituality and religion are independent-although related-constructs, it is reasonable to assume that the mechanisms that relate spirituality to health may be different from those that account for religion's influence on health (Miller & Thoresen, 2003). However, as George, Larson, Koeing, and McCullough (2000) point out, almost all of the research concerning the relation between spirituality and health is based on measures of religion rather than on measures of spirituality. …