(RxWiki News) People follow religion for a variety of reasons. For many, it is a source of comfort, community and celebration.
Now, new research is showing that religion may help patients with schizophrenia cope with this challenging mental disorder.
"Talk to your doctor about supportive psychiatric services."
A study led by Jennifer Nolan, PhD, from Duke University, asked an interesting question - Can religion as a coping mechanism have an effect on the quality of life of schizophrenia patients?
The study, published in Psychiatric Services in August 2012, used recorded interviews with 63 participants, all of whom were between the ages of 18 and 65 and had been living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or a schizoaffective disorder for at least two years.
Patients were asked a series of questions related to their quality of life, including topics like physical and psychological health, social relationships and overall satisfaction with life.
To determine their relationship with religion and the level to which they used it to cope with schizophrenia, questions covered topics like religious forgiveness, sense of spiritual connection or spiritual discontent and spiritual support.
Of the patients, 71 percent were Protestant and 68 percent participated in religious activities like church services or prayer groups.
Sixty-four percent weighed being a part of a religious community with "much" or "very much" importance and 91 percent reported participating in private spiritual activities, like meditation, prayer or readings.
The results showed a considerable connection between a strong, positive sense of religion in the patients's lives and their quality of life, especially in terms of psychological health.
According to the authors, "The findings of this study indicate the importance of religion and spirituality in coping with mental illness."
LuAnn Pierce, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), did not find these results very surprising.
"Many people find comfort in religion; those with serious mental illness especially need the support and solace that can be found in religious communities," Pierce told dailyRx News.
Pierce also highlighted the significance of religion as a support network that can help improve quality of life.
"The coping skills people use to manage their lives and symptoms of mental illness allow people to live independently with outpatient support and medication management - religion plays a big part in making that possible," said Pierce.
It is important to note that issues such as spirituality and psychological quality of life are hard to measure in objective numbers and straight facts. The self-reported nature of these factors may add some variance to the results.
However, this study does provide some interesting insight. Larger-scale research needs to be completed to further investigate how religion may play a role in the quality of life of people with schizophrenia. No conflicts of interest were reported by the authors.