Commentary: why do research on spirituality and health, and what do the results mean?
I address two related questions in this article. First, why conduct research on religion/spirituality (R/S) and health? Second, what are the dangers of misinterpreting or misapplying the results from such research? If relationships are found, so what? What is the practical value or clinical relevance of such information? Why should investigators spend time and scarce financial resources to explore such connections? What might health care professionals do differently as a result? How would people live their lives differently in light of such information? Questions like these need solid answers for the field to continue to move forward. Related to the "So what?" question is the issue of how results from research in this area are translated into popular understanding and application. After discussing why conducting research on religion and health is important, I identify a recently published research report that focuses on the relationship between R/S and self-control, an article that received considerable media press coverage. I present the results reported by the authors of this study and then examine a column written about the study that appeared in the New York Times. Finally, I explore what the findings mean, how the media portrayed the findings, and problems that might result depending on how people applied those findings.
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