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Spiritual health and its importance for adolescent wellbeing

Spiritual health has long been recognised as an important component in maintaining overall health and wellbeing, with a growing body of research which supports linkages between mindfulness-based practices and positive mental health and resilience.

Whilst specific definitions vary, spiritual health is generally associated with an awareness of the sacred qualities of life, including wisdom, compassion, and the experience of wonder. It is traditionally categorised into four central domains: connections with others, with the self, with nature, and with the ‘transcendent’- or a larger meaning to life. There is rising interest in gaining a more detailed understanding of spiritual health, and how it relates to adolescent wellbeing, however studies in this field have thus far been relatively limited, with few making use of quantitative methods in their analyses.

Using data on individuals aged between 11 and 15 years from six European and North American countries, a team of HBSC researchers have assessed patterns in spiritual health by gender, age and country. Self-perceived spiritual health was measured according to the four key domains outlined above, which aligned to eight questions selected from the 2013/14 HBSC surveys in these countries.

Connections to both oneself and to others were found to be important to the majority of young people, regardless of their age and gender. The importance of spiritual health was however shown to decline with age, a pattern which was consistent across genders and countries. This could be due to natural changes in cognition and the emergence of independent thinking as children age, or to increasing societal influences. 

Girls placed more importance on spiritual health than boys, which could be explained by differences relating to how boys and girls are nurtured and socialised during childhood and adolescence. The researchers also identified national and possible cultural differences, with children in Israel for instance reporting higher levels of importance for most measures of spiritual health, which could reflect the prominence of ethnic identity formation. 

The results also showed a consistent relationship between high levels of spiritual health and positive overall self-rated health. Overall, while the perceived importance of spiritual health declined by age, for adolescents who maintain a strong sense of the importance of self-perceived spiritual health, the possible benefits are striking.

These findings suggest that spiritual health has a major role to play in the overall health of children and is an important area for health promotion.

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item 4393
[27-07-2017 to 31-03-2018]


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