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Spiritual belief and quality of life: the experience of older bereaved spouses

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  • Bf Psychology
  • Hq The Family. Marriage. Woman
  • Religious Science


Spiritual wellbeing is a neglected aspect of quality of life in British research on ageing. US research emphasises the health and other benefits of religious belief for American older people. However, whereas the US is still a strongly religious society, in Britain there has been a steady erosion of membership of Christian churches, accompanied by a loss of respect for the authority of the church and an increased freedom of expression in belief. In an exploratory study the implications of spiritual belief for adjustment have been studied in a sample of 28 older bereaved spouses, who have been followed from the first to the second anniversary of the death. Using a recently developed measure of strength of spiritual belief, a clear pattern was found of greater depressive symptomatology and lower perception of personal meaning among those of moderate belief; ie those who still held to a belief in a spiritual power outside of themselves but who were not sure of its efficacy. Investigation of this group of 11 moderate believers provided many illustrations of spiritual questioning, uncertainty and unease. It appears likely that a substantial proportion of the older population in Britain has become isolated from their churches of origin, yet maintains forms of spiritual belief, often hesitant in character. Some may benefit from renewed contact. Statutory health and welfare agencies need to consider their own role in promoting such re-engagement.

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