In 1997, the US National Institute for Healthcare Research (NIHR) published a Consensus Report on Scientific Research on Spirituality and Health, in which it was noted that there were conceptual, methodological, structural and professional barriers to such research . Whilst much progress has undoubtedly been made since then, David Hufford in his recent Field Analysis for Metanexus notes that there are still problems. In his analysis, these include lack of a broad inter-disciplinary base of scholarship, and difficulties in defining and distinguishing the terms “religion” and “spirituality”.
Theodore Chamberlain and Christopher Hall, in their review of Realized Religion, seem to take a somewhat more cautious view of the benefits of religion for mental health, at least insofar as they conclude that current research evidence does not clearly support the view that major mental disorders are prevented or influenced by religion . However, they note that there is evidence for a more positive view in relation specifically to problems of substance abuse . Furthermore, they note that there are limitations to generic research and they conclude that there is a need for more specific research on religion and health, which includes a focus on particular spiritualities and spiritual practices .
In response to these and other reviews, the PSTH is planning and seeking funding for research proposals which:
- develop a broad and integrative scholarship in the field of spirituality, theology and health.
- demonstrate that theology has a meaningful and valuable contribution to make to academic discourse about health
- foster a dialogue between theology and science (involving both theological texts and live participants) in the study of spirituality and health
- engage theological and scientific methodology in a studies of specific traditions of spirituality (eg Ignatian spirituality) as applied to the process of recovery from specific disorders (eg addictions)
- develop a broader understanding of spirituality, applied theology and scientific research as essentially hermeneutical exercises
- address the methodological issues involved in the interdisciplinary theological and scientific study of spirituality
- Larson, D. B., J. P. Swyers, et al. (1998). Scientific research on spirituality and health: A consensus report. Rockville, National Institute for Healthcare Research. [↩]
- Chamberlain, T. J. and C. A. Hall (2000). Realized religion. Philadelphia, Templeton Foundation Press. [↩]
- Ibid., p. 195 [↩]
- Ibid., p. 239 [↩]