Could spirituality without organized religion actually be bad for your mental health? A new study indicates that individuals who claim to be "spiritual," but who lack an allegiance to a specific religion, may, in fact, be more likely to suffer from mental health problems.
The research shows that people who embrace spiritualism without religious constructs are at a potential mental-health disadvantage compared to those who are more traditionally religious (or even when compared to those who are atheists and agnostics). In addition to having greater mental health problems, these people are also more likely to take medication to deal with associated issues, the Telegraph reports.
The research, which was conducted by Professor Michael King from the University College London, among others, was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The shocking study came to the following conclusion: "There is increasing evidence that people who profess spiritual beliefs in the absence of a religious framework are more vulnerable to mental disorder."
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Of course, many would wonder what, exactly, this means. The Telegraph provides more information about the theological views of the subjects who were consulted for the study, offering up some clarity on the matter:
Of the participants, 35 per cent described themselves as "religious", meaning they attended a church, mosque, synagogue or temple. Five in six of this group were Christian.
Almost half (46 per cent) described themselves as neither religious nor spiritual, while the 19 per cent remainder said they had spiritual beliefs but did not adhere to a particular religion.
Members of this final group were 77 per cent more likely than the others to be dependent on drugs, 72 per cent more likely to suffer from a phobia, and 50 per cent more likely to have a generalised anxiety disorder.
They were also 40 per cent more likely to be receiving treatment with psychotropic drugs, and at a 37 per cent higher risk of neurotic disorder.
In an interview with the BBC, King noted that religious people are similar to their secular counterparts, but that they tend, at least to a degree, to fare better on some indicators.
"They have less drug addiction, less alcohol problems, things like that," the professor said of the faithful.
The total sample for the study was 7,403 English men and women who were randomly-selected. Aside from their religious views, the participants were also asked about their mental health.
King's team noted that more research will need to be done before making definitive assessments and correlations between spirituality and mental health.