After Collective Trauma, Religiosity and/or Spirituality Found to Affect Health Outcomes

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — In a new study published in the current issue of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers from the University of Denver, the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Irvine, report that after a collective trauma–defined as a traumatic event that happens simultaneously to a large number of people (9/11, in this case)–religiosity and spirituality independently predict people’s health outcomes.

The study, “The Distinct Roles of Spirituality and Religiosity in Physical and Mental Health after Collective Trauma: A National Longitudinal Study of Responses to the 9/11 Attacks,” was conducted by Daniel N. McIntosh, PhD, professor of psychology at UD; Michael J. Poulin, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at UB; and E. Alison Holman, PhD, assistant professor of nursing science, UC Irvine.

In the three years following 9/11, they found that religious individuals (i.e. those who participated in religious social structures by attending services) had a higher positive affect, fewer cognitive intrusions (unwanted intrusive thoughts about 9/11), and lower odds of new onset mental and musculoskeletal ailments than among those in the study who expressed no religious or spiritual proclivities.

Those who were high versus low in spirituality (i.e. feeling a personal commitment to spiritual or religious beliefs) had a higher positive affect, lower odds of new onset infectious ailments, and more cognitive intrusions, but a more rapid decline in intrusions over time.

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