Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Religious Involvement, Well-Being and Mental Health in Men and Women

Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Religious Involvement, Well-Being and Mental Health in Men and Women

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

It is generally believed that religion helps a person to attain self-realization, eternal bliss, salvation and unification with God, a concept that signifies a symbolic personification of the highest moral ideals of the culture. According to Radhakrishnan (1926) religion is a specific attitude that involves intellectual cognitions, aesthetic forms and moral valuations. The common belief is that faith in God and participation in religious activities and rituals facilitate not only the acquisition of bliss and divine knowledge but also promote a state of eternal peace and tranquility in an individual. Worship (pooja) is regarded as the easiest medium to attain salvation and unification with the Supreme. Pooja is thus deemed to have transcending quality that provides a direct communications link with the higher power. It is performed either in one's own house or in a temple. Religious participation covers many activities such as saying prayers individually or collectively, reading scriptures, loud or silent chanting of mantras with or without beads, fasting, offering flowers and edible things to the deity, performing ritualistic sacrifices, and participating in many types of other rituals and ceremonies.

In a recent study (Gupta, Narayan and Gupta, 2010) of religious involvement, assessed in terms of frequency of temple visits (religious attendance) as well as participation in religious activities, it has been found that more nonworking women are religiously involved daily than working women (both temple visits and religious participation) while more working women are religiously involved occasionally than nonworking women (both temple visits and religious participation). This study also reveals that working women who are occasional participants in religious activities experience more stress and state anxiety than those working women who participate in such activities daily, indicating that daily participation in religious activities serves as a health advantage for working women. This study, conducted in Indian setting, demonstrates further that most of the working as well as nonworking women believe that religious participation increases life satisfaction (78% working and 88% nonworking women) and enhances mental peace (76% working and 84% nonworking women). Such enhanced mental states may affect the immune system and thus influence health in the positive direction (Ai, Peterson, Tice, Bolling and Koenig, 2004). It may, however, be pointed out that the respondents' assessments in respect of life satisfaction and mental peace were based upon single items in this study and the respondents were required to give their responses in "Yes" or "No". The items used were:

Does religious participation increase life satisfaction? Yes No

Does religious participation enhance mental peace ? Yes No

Single item assessments of a construct not only suffer from inherent lack of reliability but the two-category ("Yes" or "No") responses in the above items also raise concerns about differentiation and gradedness as determined in Likert type responses. In another study (S. Gupta, Narayan, and Gupta, 2010) it was observed that more women participate in religious activities daily than men, while the reverse is valid for occasional participation; no such differences were observed for religious attendance.

Another important aspect of religious involvement, i.e., religious commitment, has been included in the present study. Thus for the current study religious involvement has been operationalized as representing the domains of religious attendance, participation in religious activities or practices, and religious commitment (indicant of religious motivation). Religious commitment has been defined as "the degree to which a person adheres to his or her religious values, beliefs and practices, and uses them in daily living (Worthington et al., 2003, p. 85). These three aspects of religious involvement are also included in the 10 key conceptual domains of religion/spirituality identified by a panel of the National Institute of Healthcare Research (NIHR; Larson, Swyers and McCullough, 1998). …

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