Spirituality and health: an exploratory study of hospital patients' perspectives Academic Article uri icon


  • The relationship between spirituality/religion and health is receiving increasing academic interest, but few studies have explored the experience of Australians. This paper presents data from an exploratory survey of patients and families in a public teaching hospital in Sydney. The findings show that the majority of hospital service users: •believe there are links between spirituality/religion and health; •believe that rituals and customs can help people when they are sick/suffering; •have valued practices associated with their beliefs; •feel it is helpful for health staff to know their patients’ beliefs; •are willing to be asked about their beliefs; or •want hospital staff to respect and support the beliefs and practices of all patients. Spirituality and religion, and the beliefs and practices associated with them, were found to be eclectic, individualised and evolving in response to life events such as loss and health crises. This paper concludes that a person-centred framework of health practice includes attention to the religious/spiritual dimension of patients and their families. What is known about the topic?There is a rapidly developing body of research that demonstrates an increasing awareness of the important links between religion and health, but is limited in Australian application. What does this paper add?This paper provides contextually relevant qualitative and quantitative data on patient perspectives, including how patients wish to be treated by health staff in relation to their beliefs and practices. The Australian perspective also provides a valuable counterpoint to US-dominated research in the global community. What are the implications for practitioners?The research findings indicate that practitioners need to recognise and respond to the role of religious and spiritual beliefs and practices in patients’ health journeys. The discussion suggests some practical ways of doing this which sit comfortably within the patient-centred approach.

publication date

  • 2010