Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

The Use of Spirituality and Religiosity in Coping with Colorectal Cancer

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

The Use of Spirituality and Religiosity in Coping with Colorectal Cancer

Article excerpt


An increasing number of studies have shown that spirituality and religiosity are sources of support in coping with cancer (Büssing, Balzat, & Heusser, 2010; Thuné-Boyle, Stygall, Keshtgar, & Newman, 2006). Whilst no one definition of religion or spirituality exists, the following definitions are widely used in healthcare research:

Religion involves beliefs, practices, and rituals related to the transcendent, [and] an organized system of beliefs, practices, and symbols designed (a) to facilitate closeness to the transcendent, and (b) to foster an understanding of one's relationship and responsibility to others in living together in a community. (Koenig, 2012)

Spirituality 'refers to a connection with a larger reality that gives one's life meaning, experienced through a religious tradition or, increasingly in secular Western culture, through meditation, nature or art' (Peteet & Balboni, 2013, p. 280). 'Spirituality is distinguished from all other things - humanism, values, morals, and mental health - by its connection to that which is sacred, the transcendent' (Koenig, 2012, p. 3, emphasis in the original). There are many views on how religion and spirituality are related, however, the majority of the literature support the notion that religion and spirituality are different but connected concepts (Weaver, Pargament, Flannelly, & Oppenheimer, 2006). In Western society, spirituality has been described as a broader concept to religion although it can be expressed through religion (Hampton, Hollis, Lloyd, Taylor, & McMillan, 2007), and has been defined as 'an inherent quality of all humans that drives the search for meaning and purpose in life [that] ... involves relationships with oneself, others and a transcendent dimension' (Hermann, 2000, p. 234). People diagnosed with cancer have been found to use spirituality and/or religiosity to maintain self-esteem, create a sense of hope, make sense of meaning and purpose, and gain emotional comfort (Thuné-Boyle et al., 2006). Spirituality and religiosity are recognised as positively related to quality of life and coping with disease (Büssing et al., 2010).

A diagnosis of cancer has been associated with an increased awareness of the spiritual dimension of the self and an intensification of spiritual needs (Taylor, 2003). Spirituality is 'central to the experience of most patients with cancer . and they indicate a desire for help with their spiritual needs' (Peteet & Balboni, 2013, p. 286). People living with cancer have reported their spiritual needs as related to finding meaning in life (Peteet & Balboni, 2013), finding hope (Moadel et al., 1999), connection, peace and transcendence (Büssing, Janko, Baumann, Havidt, & Kopf, 2013) and drawing meaning from their suffering (Käppeli, 2000). Spiritual and religious resources have been related to improving health and to coping with cancer (Darby, Nash, & Nash, 2014).

Religion and spirituality play an important role in Iranian life, and traditionally, spirituality and religion are believed to be synergistic (Cheraghi, Payne, & Salsali, 2005). Islamic teaching and ideology emphasise the 'will of God' with birth, life, and death of all creatures seen as being in Khoda's (Persian word for God) hands (Fasihi-Harandy et al., 2009). In Western society, spirituality is a concept usually described as more comprehensive than religion in scope and related to finding purpose and meaning in life (Laubmeier, Zakowski, & Bair, 2004; Vachon, 2008). In Iran, just over 99% of the population identify as Muslim; 90% belong to the Shi'a branch of Islam, the official state religion, and around 9% to the Sunni branch, which predominates in neighbouring Muslim countries (Statistical Centre of Iran, 2011). In contrast, the most common religion in New Zealand is Christianity (48.9%), with 40% of New Zealanders declaring themselves to be non-religious (Statistics New Zealand, 2014). As Pratt (2016, p. …

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