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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Lisa J. Rapport


Many individuals report using religion and spirituality as a means of coping with multiple sclerosis (MS). However, there has been little research to investigate how various aspects of religious and spiritual belief systems relate to health outcomes in this clinical population. The present study sought to identify how specific facets of religion and spirituality relate to physical and mental health outcomes in a sample of adults with MS. Furthermore, the effect of disability status (high or low disability) on the relationship between religion/spirituality and health outcomes was also explored.

The sample included 80 adults with multiple sclerosis. Participants subjectively reported on their religious/spiritual beliefs and psychosocial resources as well as their current physical and mental health. Objective health outcomes were obtained using a clinician-rated measure of disability status and a measure of ambulation capacity. Most of the participants were female (74%), Christian (73%), and had relapsing-remitting MS (76%).

The results indicate that existential well-being (a sense of meaning and purpose in life) was positively associated with mental health outcomes after accounting for demographic and psychosocial characteristics. Among individuals with high disability due to MS, negative religious coping (having punitive attitudes about a divine being’s role in one’s life situation) was inversely related to mental health, and positive religious coping was positively related to objective physical health. Religious well-being (a sense of connectedness to a divine being) was not substantially related to any physical or mental health outcomes. Among individuals with low disability, religious involvement (commitment to and participation in religious practices) was inversely associated with physical health. Individuals with low disability reported experiencing more severe anxiety than individuals with high disability.

The findings indicate that specific facets of religious and spiritual belief systems are substantially related to health outcomes among individuals with MS. Furthermore, the findings suggest that the relationship between facets of religion, spirituality, and health outcomes may differ based on the severity of MS disability. The findings highlight the important influence that religion and spirituality have on health outcomes and coping with MS.

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