Lecture – Spirituality and Health – Research Findings From Serious Illness to Well Populations

Available with English captions.

Tracy A. Balboni, MD, MPH, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute – Visiting Scholar Series

    This lecture explores the history, research findings, and future directions of the role of spirituality in medical care and health outcomes.

    Spirituality is defined as the dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose, and transcendence. It is also how individuals experience relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices.

    Presentation highlights include:

    • Contrasting the history of the relationship of spirituality and the practice of medicine to the current relationship of spirituality to the practice of medicine
    • Discussion of what research says about the role of spirituality in illness and the impact of spiritual care on patient outcomes in illness
    • Review of data regarding religious community participation and mortality, health behaviors, mental health outcomes, including depression, and completed suicide

    This lecture reviews the history of the relationship of spirituality and the practice of medicine. Dr. Balboni discusses different paintings exemplifying the intersection of spirituality and medicine across time in Western culture. This provides the historical context to better understand the current relationship of spirituality and the practice of medicine.

    This lecture reviews quantitative and qualitative data regarding the impact of spiritual/religious coping and religious, community participation on mortality, health behaviors, and mental health outcomes (including depression, PTSD, and completed suicide). Research findings suggest that medical patients have spiritual needs, spirituality can influence health decisions, and influences quality of life.

    Dr. Balboni concludes that whole patient care requires incorporating spirituality into regular medical care. Specifically, by referring patients to spiritual community leaders and incorporating spirituality into palliative care guidelines. Finally, this lecture suggests that family members, clinicians, and the medical community in general could also benefit from spiritual practices.