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Religion/Spirituality, Mental Health, and the Lifespan: Findings from a Representative Sample of Canadian Adults

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2022

Roxana Manoiu
Faculty of Human Sciences, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Nicole G. Hammond
School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Stephanie Yamin
Faculty of Human Sciences, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Arne Stinchcombe*
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Corresponding author:La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à : / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Arne Stinchcombe, Ph.D., University of Ottawa, 136 Jean-Jacques Lussier, Vanier Hall, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1N 6N5 (


Theories of adult development and aging suggest that older adults turn towards religion and spirituality (R/S) to increase meaning and purpose in life, and to assist in coping with adverse experience. We sought to examine the relationship between R/S and positive mental health and mental illness (i.e., psychological distress) in adulthood, and to determine the potential moderating role of age. Data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health (CCHS-MH), a national population health study, were used. A multivariable linear regression model revealed a significant R/S by age interaction for positive mental health (p = 0.001). Although R/S was associated with positive mental health among all participants, there was a stronger relationship between R/S and positive mental health for older adults. No statistically significant relationship between R/S and psychological distress was observed. Findings highlight the importance of R/S to positive mental health across the adult lifespan. The differential relationships among R/S, positive mental health, and mental illness underscore the utility of using the dual-continua of mental health and mental illness in order to understand their respective determinants.



Les théories du développement de l’adulte et du vieillissement suggèrent que les personnes âgées se tournent vers la religion et la spiritualité (R/S) pour donner un sens et un but à leur vie, et pour les aider à faire face aux expériences négatives. Nous avons analysé la relation entre la R/S, la santé mentale positive et la maladie mentale (c.-à-d. la détresse psychologique) à l’âge adulte, et la possibilité d’un rôle modérateur de l’âge. Les données de l’Enquête sur la santé dans les collectivités canadiennes – Santé mentale (ESCC-SM) de 2012, une étude nationale sur la santé de la population, ont été utilisées. Le modèle de régression linéaire multivariée a révélé une interaction significative R/S × âge pour la santé mentale positive (p = 0.001). Bien que la R/S soit associée à une santé mentale positive chez tous les participants, la relation entre la R/S et la santé mentale positive était plus forte chez les personnes plus âgées. Aucune relation statistiquement significative n’a été observée entre la R/S et la détresse psychologique. Les résultats soulignent l’importance de la R/S pour une santé mentale positive tout au long de la vie adulte. Les relations différentielles entre la R/S, la santé mentale positive et la maladie mentale mettent en évidence l’utilité du double-continuum de la santé mentale et de la maladie mentale afin de comprendre leurs déterminants respectifs.

© Canadian Association on Gerontology 2022

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