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Religion and Spirituality Boost Health Differently

Update Date: Mar 28, 2014 05:11 PM EDT
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Religion and spirituality promote health in different ways, according to new research.

Researchers found that religion helps behavior and spirituality helps mental health.

"Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel," Carolyn Aldwin, a gerontology professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, said in a news release.

Aldwin and her team created a new theoretical model that defines two distinct pathways of how religion and spirituality boost health.

Researchers found that people who were religious practiced better health habits. For instance, religious people are less likely to smoke and drink.

However, spirituality helps regulate emotions, which researchers said helps physiological effects such as blood pressure.

"No one has ever reviewed all of the different models of how religion affects health," Aldwin, the Jo Anne Leonard endowed director of OSU's Center for Healthy Aging Research, said in a news release. "We're trying to impose a structure on a very messy field."

The findings were published in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

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