A Polish study published in the journalPsychology of Religion and Spirituality has shown that clergymen and nuns from the Roman Catholic Church have better mental health than the general population. Further, the findings suggest that spiritual openness may be one way to improve mental health among highly religious individuals.
Catholicism is the predominant religion in Poland, and the Catholic Church is strongly rooted in Poland's history. Despite their central role in Polish society, researchers highlight that mental health remains largely unknown.
Notably, there are evidence to suggest that the Roman Catholic clergy are experiencing depression at an elevated rate than the general population. In particular, Catholic priests may be vulnerable to burnout because to the physically and mentally demanding nature of their work, as well as aspects of their vocation.
In my study, I learned from my parents when I was young, he was a religious person, often volunteering in the church and doing varied activities in Catholic societies. During my study, I saw how hard she and the other sisters work, with great engagement, serving older and disabled individuals and priests as maids. I wondered if the differences in spirituality and mental health between Roman Catholic priests and nuns would be shown.
During her pilgrimage to Czestochowa, a community of clergymen and nuns is often closed to external influence and reluctant to provide information about daily work or their problems. I was fortunate because my M.A. student was closely related to the religious movement. During her pilgrimage she decided to collect information from clergymen and nuns in chapels and churches.
A sample of 70 Roman Catholic priests and 70 Roman Catholic nuns from Poland was recruited. The participants included items assessing their own religious beliefs, morality, religious beliefs, and religious self. Finally, they completed a general health questionnaire examining four aspects of psychological distress somatic symptoms, anxiety and insomnia.
The results of a general health questionnaire indicated that 26 percent of participants were at risk of developing a mental health problem, followed by 31 percent showed somatic symptoms, 27% showed anxiety and insomnia, and 19% showed signs of social dysfunction, and 10% showed symptoms of severe depression. These findings were generally below average when it comes to the large population of Polish people, suggesting that the priests and nuns had a lower risk of mental health problems.
Rogowska told PsyPost that to my surprise, clergy and nuns differ significantly in mental health and spirituality.
Although this finding is contrary to previous evidence that Catholic priests have higher levels of mental health problems, scientists argue that the context of the study might be useful in determining whether or not Catholic priests are infected with other Catholics. However, isolation and inadequate support may be less common among Polish priests in other parts of Poland, as well as Catholic priests in other countries. Polish priests and nuns may also garner more admiration and respect from the community.
According to Rogowska, personal religiosity and spiritual transcendence were associated to improved mental health. Overall, high spirituality and religiosity are beneficial to mental health, and prayers and developing transcendency are essential to self-actualization, and self-adaptation in stressful situations.
The researchers then used multiple regression analyses to investigate potential mediation models.
According to a model, personal religiosity mediated the relationship between spiritual transcendence and mental health. Another model revealed that spiritual openness facilitated the link between personal religiousness and mental health. Finally, in a mediation experiment that included both aspects of self-transcendence transcendence and spiritual openness, a significant mediation effect emerged. This model accounted for the highest amount of variance and suggests that religiosity can stimulate better mental health through spiritual openness and transcendence proper.
In their study, Rogowska and Dolega discussed the potential implications of these results. Generally, spiritual individuals may increase their mental health through religious participation, such as participating in church activities, citing important events in Christian life, prayer, and meditation. Various forms of religious behavior may be protective factors for mental health disorders, according to the authors. Rather, engaging in spiritual activities, especially exercising spiritual openness, may also enhance health.
According to Rogowska, spirituality plays a key role between religiousness and mental health. Moreover, dangers can arise in people who do not develop spiritual openness and transcendence despite being religious. In such cases, religiosity may be a limitation, or a threat to mental health and well-being.
The researchers indicated that their sample was limited to Roman Catholic clergy and nuns from Poland, and that the findings may not generalize to other religious populations. Future research should examine whether similar findings are found among other religious groups such as Protestant, Jewish, or Muslim populations.
The COVID-19 epidemic with its periodical isolation may help to develop spirituality, transcendence, and religious practice in the home, according to Rogowska. These practices can, for example, help us understand and familiarize ourselves with physical and mental health difficulties, suffering, and the loss of our loved ones. I suggest this kind of time in isolation, for those who feel the need to do so.
Aleksandra M. Rogowska and Danuta Dolega have authored a study examining the relationship between spiritual transcendence, personal religion, and mental health in Roman Catholic settlements.