Research on religion, spirituality, and mental health: a review

  • Koenig H
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D espite spectacular advances in technology and science, 90% of the world's population is involved today in some form of religious or spiritual practice. 1 Nonreligious people make up less than 0.1% of the populations in many Middle-Eastern and African countries. Only 8 of 238 countries have populations where more than 25% say they are not religious, and those are countries where the state has placed limitations on religious freedom. Atheism is actually rare around the world. More than 30 countries report no atheists (0%) and in only 12 of 238 countries do atheists make up 5% or more of the population. In Canada, 12.5% of the population are non-religious and 1.9% atheist. Evidence for religion playing a role in human life dates back 500 000 years ago when ritual treatment of skulls took place during China's paleolithic period. 2 Why has religion endured over this vast span of human history? What purpose has it served and does it continue to serve? I will argue that religion is a powerful coping behaviour that enables people to make sense of suffering, provides control over the overwhelming forces of nature (both internal and external), and promotes social rules that facilitate communal living, cooperation, and mutual support. Until recent times, religion and mental health care were closely aligned. 3 Many of the first mental hospitals were

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  • Harold Koenig

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