By Laura Alipoon - September 25, 2018

The Spirituality-Health Connection

Our Faculty Colloquium speaker, Dr. Harold Koenig spoke Thursday and Friday, September 20 and 21, 2018 on Religion, Spirituality, and Health.  Dr. Koenig is the Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University.  You can sign up for his newsletter at this link: .

Dr. Koenig is the foremost authority on the connection between spirituality and health and has written 50 books on the topic.  Here are just a few of his books:

Some of the high points of his talk are as follow.  How we deal with stress, chronic disease, PTSD, medical decisions, and death is impacted by whether or not we are involved in a faith community.  The research has shown that those who are involved in a faith community have greater well-being and happiness.  There is also an increase in meaning, purpose, hope, optimism and social integration. 

Research over the last decade has shown that there is a connection with spirituality and physical health.  People who have a faith connection have been found:

  • To be more physically active
  • Use safer sexual practices
  • To be less likely to smoke
  • To have better immune functions
  • To have a decrease in stress hormones
  • To have lower blood pressure
  • To have a decrease in cognitive decline with aging
  • To be heavier (potlucks?) 

 The research he shared showed that mental health of the individual is better for those involved in a faith community as well.

  • Decrease in depression
  • Recover faster from depression
  • Less likely to commit suicide
  • Addictions are lower
    • Alcohol
    • Drugs

Dr. Koenig encouraged faculty at LLU to engage in more research on the spirituality-health connection.  LLU faculty shared the spirituality research being done on campus already.  This LLU-sponsored research will be presented in future issues of this newsletter.

On Friday Dr. Koenig talked about the importance of this research and shared how to get involved in this type of research.  He shared several scales that can be used as well.  His top recommendations are:

  • DUREL (5 items)
  • BIAC (10 items)
  • RCOPE (7 items)
  • Allport-Ross (11 items)

Dr. Koenig spent time talking about the importance of taking a brief spiritual history of patients.  This history is the responsibility of the physician to obtain.  He made it clear that “…if the doctor has failed that duty, the nurse should do it.”  Koenig shared that not addressing the spiritual needs of the patient and their families could result in expensive, futile, life-prolonging care among those who use their religion for coping.

The bottom line is that we should treat our patients with kindness and respect.  This approach will increase well-being for them, and for us.

Dr. Koenig’s talks were recorded, the link will be provided when available.