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Spirituality linked to mental health disorders

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A new study has shown a link between spirituality and mental health problems such as eating disorders, drug use, neurosis, phobias, and anxiety.

The research, carried out by University College London, showed a positive link between mental health "demons" and a professed interest in spirituality. Professor Michael King, who led the research, wrote in the British Journal of Psychiatry: "Our main finding is that people who had a spiritual understanding of life had worse mental health than those with an understanding that was neither religious nor spiritual."

The study was based on a survey of 7,403 British men and women, who were asked questions about their religious and spiritual beliefs, and their mental health.

The survey found that 35% described themselves as religious, 19% considered themselves spiritual without a set religion, and 46 % considered themselves neither spiritual or religious. Those in the spiritual group were found to be 50% more likely to have an anxiety disorder and 72% more likely to suffer from a phobia. They were also shown to have a 40% greater likelihood of receiving treatment with psychotropic drugs, which include antidepressants and mood stabilizers. They also had a 77% higher chance of being dependent on drugs and were 37% more at risk of neurotic disorder.

Those of religious faith and non-belief were found to have equal levels of mental health, but those in the religious group were found to have the least association with drug and alcohol use. The researchers said of their findings: "We conclude that there is increasing evidence that people who profess spiritual beliefs in the absence of a religious framework are more vulnerable to mental disorder.

"The nature of this association needs greater examination in qualitative and in prospective quantitative research."




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