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The Power of the Group? Spirituality without Religion Ups Mental Illness Risk

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posted 05:29 AM EST, Fri January 04, 2013

Researchers say that people who navigate spirituality without religion are more likely to have addiction and mental health problems.

Does belonging to a group matter?...Does it matter if you subscribe to any given religion so long as you have a personal spiritual understanding?

According to researchers at University College London, it probably does - they say that people who profess a sense of spirituality without any religious affiliation are significantly more likely to abuse drugs and to succumb to a variety of mental illnesses.

The Study

The researchers polled a random sample of 7403 people in the UK and asked about religious and spiritual beliefs, drug or alcohol abuse and mental illness/emotional problems.

The Results

  • Of the people polled, 46% described themselves as not religious or spiritual, 35% described themselves as religious (predominantly Christian) and 15% described themselves as spiritual without belonging to any particular religion.
  • Religious and non religious/non spiritual subjects were about equally likely to have addiction or mental illness

Compared to religious and not religious/not spiritual subjects, spiritual but not religious subjects were:

  • 77% more likely to be addicted to drugs
  • 72% more likely to have a specific phobia and 50% more likely to have generalized anxiety disorder
  • 46% more likely to have abnormal eating attitudes
  • 40% more likely to be using psychotropic medications
  • 37% more likely to have a neurotic disorder

The Commentary

Lead author Professor Michael King explained that there is mounting evidence that spirituality without a religious framework increases a person’s vulnerability to mental illness. What’s needed now, he says, is more research to investigate what’s causing this increased susceptibility.

Read the full study findings in The British Journal of Psychiatry.

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Story Highlights
  • Spirituality without Religion Ups Mental Illness Risk: Self professed spiritual people who do not belong to any religion are more likely to suffer from mental illness and addiction
  • Researchers Don't Know Why This Is So: They call for further research to explore the causes of this association
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