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Aging Well
Spiritual Health
Well-being

Religion + Spirituality = Healthier Aging

Religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health as we age, according to research done at Oregon State University and published in March 2014 in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

A release from OSU quotes gerontology professor Carolyn Aldwin, director of OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research, as saying, “Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel.”

Aldwin and colleagues have been working to understand and distinguish the beneficial connections between health, religion, and spirituality. The result is a new theoretical model that defines two distinct pathways.

The release explains that religiousness, including formal religious affiliation and service attendance, is associated with better health habits, such as lower smoking rates and reduced alcohol consumption. Spirituality, including meditation and private prayer, helps regulate emotions, which aids physiological effects such as blood pressure.

There can be some overlap of the influences of religion and spirituality on health, Aldwin said. More research is needed to test the theory and examine contrasts between the two pathways. The goal is to help researchers develop better measures for analyzing the connections between religion, spirituality, and health and then explore possible clinical interventions.

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