Objectives: Some patients with mental illness have said that religion (whether institutional or private) provides them with resources to cope with their illness. The aim of the study was to examine the spiritual well-being and religious practices, beliefs and psychological morbidity of psychiatric patients (n = 41) compared to control groups of patients with chronic medical conditions (n = 40) and community controls attending their GP (n = 39).
Method: The study was a cross sectional survey. The study group were identified in psychiatric rehabilitation and day unit settings, the medical controls from a physical rehabilitation hospital and rheumatology outpatient department and the community controls from a GPs surgery. General Health Questionnaire-28 (GHQ-28), the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (consisting of religious and existential well-being subscales) and an open-ended Religious Survey Questionnaire were personally administered to the groups and information supplemented by casenote data.
Results: Although there were no differences between the groups on the measure of overall Spiritual Weil-Being or on the subscale of Religious Well-Being, the psychiatric group scored lower on the Existential Well-Being subscale (p < 0.001) and had higher scores on the GHQ-28 (p < 0.001). The psychiatric group had increased frequency of private religious behaviour (p < 0.05) (praying and reading the Bible) which were thought to be coping strategies. Existential Well-Being of the whole sample was positively correlated to religious beliefs (feeling close to God (F = 6,337, p < 0.001); believing everything is according to God's plan (F = 2,709, p < 0.05) and having a mission in life (F = 3,563, p < 0.05)) and to religious practice (attending church) (F = 3,489, p < 0.05). Regression analysis of the whole sample showed that 49.5% of the variance in Existential Well-Being could be predicted by the severe depression subscale of the GHQ, but an additional 9.6% of the variance in Existential Well-Being could be predicted by religious beliefs.
Conclusions: The psychiatric group expressed lower life satisfaction and purpose, and were more likely to be single and unemployed. Religious belief does impact on life satisfaction and could be considered as an adjunct in the management of some psychiatric patients.