Spirituality and Distress in Europe


There is a growing body of research highlighting the relationship between spirituality and distress. People who struggle with their spiritual life are more likely to experience health problems and distress. Spirituality is a coping mechanism that can help people manage major life stressors. It can also be useful for resolving inner conflicts. However, a number of forms of religious coping can be problematic. Some of the most common are spiritual forgiveness, reframing stressful situations into a larger system of meaning, and rituals to help make transitions easier.

Many people have positive views of religion. In fact, about half of the public in Europe embraces spiritual beliefs. This includes practicing Christians and non-practicing Christians. Secular groups, however, are less likely to hold such beliefs.

Religion has a wide range of implications for individuals and society. It informs our morals, our behavior, our politics, and our economics. Practicing Christians, for example, often attend church services at least once a month. At the same time, religious institutions are a source of much criticism. These negative perceptions are often based on hypocrisy and abuse. Other criticisms involve extremism, racism, and terrorism.

Religious participation is an important part of the spiritual process. It includes rituals, individual meditation, and collective prayer. Those who attend religious services live seven years longer than those who do not. Participating in a religious institution can be a good way to gain publicity and support.

Often, however, those who are engaged in spirituality and religion have ambivalent or conflicting views about both. While most people who consider themselves religious believe in a higher power, many who are not religious feel that the religion they belong to is not helpful. Most of those who are not religious say they have found a sense of inner peace without religion.

In Western Europe, attitudes toward religion are mixed. The majority of respondents in Austria, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland view religion positively. They also overwhelmingly agree that it provides them with a sense of purpose, meaning, and moral guidance. Similarly, only a few Europeans believe that religion does more harm than good.

In addition, religiously unaffiliated Europeans are more likely to view religion positively. More than one-fifth of adults in Italy say they have a spiritual soul. Moreover, fewer respondents in Belgium and Sweden affirm their spiritual beliefs. On the other hand, those who do not identify with a religion are more likely to say they do not have a spiritual soul.

Regardless of where a person’s beliefs fall, the survey found that more adults under 35 have positive views about religion than older adults. Similarly, fewer adults with a college degree have negative views about religion. Likewise, women have more positive views than men. Nonetheless, more adults aged 18 to 29 have negative views about religion than older adults.

Finally, the survey found that the word “religion” can have a problematic connotation in Africa. Although the word can be used to refer to a belief in a higher power, it can also be associated with condemnation and selective intolerance.