Study shows spiritual health leads to emotional, mental well-being

Students involved in religion or spiritual activities are healthier both emotionally and mentally than students with little or no religious affiliation, according to a recent study released by the University of California at Los Angeles Higher Education Research Institute.

According to the analysis, non-churchgoing students are more than twice as likely to succumb to feelings of depression than students who attend religious services on a regular basis.

The study was part of a national analysis of 3,680 third-year college students at 46 colleges and universities throughout the United States, according to UCLA Professor Alexander Astin, co-principal investigator for the project.

“College can be an unsettling time as students struggle with change and fundamental issues about themselves and the world,” Astin said.

However, he added that religion and spirituality can play a positive role in students’ mental and emotional health.

U junior Miriam Pope separated the two elements of spirituality and religion and said the former should be considered more important to students.

“I think that individuals do not need a religion as much as spirituality,” she said. “The few that can figure out how to do that will be closer to knowing who they are.”

Pope added that religion might be a good thing for a society in general because of the consistency and participation of peers with the same beliefs.

“You have to find out who you are and not let certain religious principles define you,” she said. “Do not change because society wants you to change do what you feel is right.”

Astin said though there may be speculation surrounding the results of the study, educational leaders and students should be aware of those who may be searching for a religion.

He added that the project team plans to broaden the study by conducting a similar analysis of 130,000 freshman currently enrolled in 240 institutes of higher learning throughout the United States.

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