Religion and Spirituality Each Play A Role in Teen Mental Health

New research done by Oregon State University suggests that both religious practices as well as spirituality each have their own influence on a teen’s overall well being and mental health. For instance, the study found that religion tends to regulate behavior. Religious practices, such as going to weekly services and spending time in fellowship with others of the same religion, had an influence on better health habits. Those who had religious tendencies smoked and drank less often.


Spirituality, on the other hand, tended to influence the ability to regulate emotions. Meditation and private prayer had the effect of being able to better manage difficult emotions as well as having physiological effects such as lowering blood pressure. Its no wonder that meditation and mindfulness are being used a therapeutic practice among therapists and psychologists. More and more experts in psychology as well as in other fields of science are recognizing its healing effects.


Essentially, mindfulness is the practice of becoming conscious of your internal and external environment. It is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment, while acknowledging and accepting the existing feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations, and surrounding activity.


Certainly, there are some similarities between religion and spirituality; however, this research was able to distinguish the different effects each had on an individual’s psychological growth. The study was published in the journal titled Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.


Another study also pointed to the role of spirituality in a teen’s psychological well being. Experts at The University of Akron, Case Western Reserve University, and Baylor University performed research that indicated that spirituality could help teens in their recovery at teen rehabilitative centers. The study measured the frequency of spiritual experiences, which were not bound to any particular religious tradition, despite the fact that the adolescent patients identified themselves as having a certain religious position at intake. These were atheist, agnostic, unsure, non-denominational spiritual, and denominational religious. At the end of the two-month study, however, the teens reported having more spiritual experiences. These spiritual experiences included feelings of a divine presence, inner peace or harmony, and selflessness and benevolence toward others.


In this study specifically, the results indicated that changes in spiritual experiences were correlated to better treatment outcomes. The positive treatment outcomes included lower levels of drug occurrence, less self-centeredness, and higher frequency of positive social behavior. Furthermore, the daily spiritual experiences reported by the teens were feeling a divine presence, having a sense of inner peace, and a feeling of benevolence towards others.


Just as in this study, various other studies have shown that mindfulness can benefit the body, mind, and heart, even if only practiced from time to time. Indeed, there are immediate benefits along with long-term, positive effects on life that bring satisfaction, joy, love, and fulfilling relationships.  Although at this time mindfulness is still not considered a traditional form of teen mental health treatment, research continues to point to its healing benefits, particularly for those whose ability to self-regulate has been impaired, such as bipolar teens.


Clearly, all of these studies are adding to the ability of researchers to better measure the connections between religion, spirituality, and health. With recognizing these connections, experts might be able to identify clinical interventions that work for adults and teens alike.




Nauert, R. (2014). Religion, Spirituality Have Dual Roles in Better Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2014, from