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Religion and Spinal Cord Injury

Do religion and spirituality help to cope with depression and anxiety after SCI?

Author of summary: Jamie Lisson (Swiss Paraplegic Research)

Original article: Rahnama P, Javidan AN, Saberi H, Montazeri A, Tavakkoli S, Pakpour AH, Hajiaghababaei M. Does religious coping and spirituality have a moderating role on depression and anxiety in patients with spinal cord injury? A study from Iran. Spinal Cord. 2015 Dec;53(12):870-4. Full text: http://www.nature.com/articles/sc2015102.

Tehran, Iran

Depression and anxiety can be important psychological side effects when experiencing spinal cord injury (SCI). This study revealed that religion and spiritual well-being may have a moderating role on the occurrence of depression and anxiety in people with SCI.

What was the aim of the study?

The goal of this study was to examine the level of anxiety and depression among people with SCI in relation with their religious coping and spiritual health. Furthermore, the researchers checked whether demographic and injury-related characteristics of the participants were related to anxiety or depression.

Iranian mosque

How did the researchers proceed?

The researchers assessed 213 adult patients (165 men and 48 women) with SCI who attended the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Repair Research Center in Tehran, Iran. Their mean age was 33.7 years. The participants completed four questionnaires:

  • A questionnaire to collect demographic data (age, gender, education, marital and employment status) and injury-related information (time since injury, complete/incomplete SCI).
  • The Brief Religious Coping Questionnaire, in order to assess their use of positive or negative religious coping. Positive religious coping was defined as having “a secure relationship with a transcendent force”, whereas negative religious coping reflects “underlying struggles within oneself, with others and with the divine” (both citations from the original scientific article).
  • The Spiritual Well-Being Scale, in order to evaluate religious well-being and existential well-being. Religious well-being refers to “one's relationship with God”. Existential well-being, instead, refers to “one's sense of life purpose and life satisfaction” (both citations from the original scientific article).
  • The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, in order to evaluate anxiety and depression.

 The researchers used statistical analyses – so-called multiple logistic regressions – to examine the responses of the participants.

Iranian people participating in a religious gathering

What did the researchers discover? 

30% of the participants reported having severe anxiety and 15% reported having severe depression. The researchers found that women and unemployed people had a significantly higher risk of anxiety. Besides, negative religious coping and lower score in existential spiritual well-being were significant contributing factors to both anxiety and depression.

What do these findings mean?

The participants who reported higher existential spiritual well-being experienced less anxiety and depression, while higher degree of negative religious coping increased the risk of anxiety and depression. This indicates that religion and spiritual well-being may have a moderating role on the experience of depression and anxiety in people with SCI.

Who conducted the study?

The study was conducted at the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Repair Research Center within the Neuroscience Institute of the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran.

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