On spirituality, religiosity and health among college students in Mumbai, India
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Background: Research indicates numerous links between spirituality, religiosity and health among various populations. There is a dearth of research on this topic among college students who are living in Mumbai, India. This age group and location is unique because they are a generation impacted by rapid globalization in the East. The current study examines how college students' connection to spirituality and frequency of religious practices is associated with their health values, health-seeking behavior and health habits. Method: College students from St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, India (N = 212, Mean age = 18.8 years old, 73.1% females, religions represented: Christian = 45.3%, Hindu = 39.2%, Other = 15.6%) participated in this study. Following the study description and informed consent procedures, participants completed questionnaires assessing demographics and their spiritual well-being, frequency of religious practice, health values, health-seeking behaviors and health habits. Result: Spiritual well-being and religious practice are positively associated with health values, health-seeking behavior and health habits, respectively. Levels of spiritual well-being and frequency of religious practice indicate belief that health is associated with the concept of reward and punishment for actions (beta =.17, p = .03; beta = .24, p < .0005), respectively. Individuals with higher levels of spiritual well-being endorse alternative practices to cope with symptoms of illness (e.g., Ayurveda, meditation) (beta = .23, p < .0005), and those with high frequency of religious practice endorse seeking religious support to cope with symptoms of illness (e.g., prayer) (beta = .60, p < .0005). Spiritual well-being (beta = .17, p = .03), and religious practice (0 = .18, p = .03) predict less use of substances such as alcohol and cigarettes. Religion (Christian vs. Hindu) regressed on spiritual well-being indicates Hindu students endorsed less alcohol and cigarette use than Christian students (beta = .21 p = .007). A covariate, religion, (Christian vs. Hindu) regressed on religious practice (beta = -.16 p = .04), and spiritual well-being (beta = -.20 p = .06) indicated lower paan and tobacco use, suggesting Hindu students use these substances more so than Christian students. Spiritual well-being was associated with an unhealthy diet and higher levels of caffeine intake (beta = -.21 p = .01), an area needing further research for explanation, whereas religious practice did not associate with diet or caffeine intake. Lastly, spiritual well-being (beta = .20 p = .02) and religious practice (beta = .29 p < .0005) predict an increase in general health, sleep and exercise among these students. Conclusion: Spiritual well-being and religious practice are positively associated with the maintenance of traditional health values and health practices as well as most health habits among the study population. Thus, spiritual well-being and religious practice may be beneficial influences on health among college students in developing countries.