Each year, up to 43,000 deaths in Canada -- nearly 20 per cent -- may be attributable to low levels of spirituality, says a researcher at the University of Toronto.
After reviewing data from Statistics Canada's National Population Health Survey and 42 other studies on the subject, Dr. Chandrakant Shah assessed the impact of spirituality on health using the formula for population attributable risk, or PAR, and three measures for examining spirituality: religiosity, stress and social connectedness.
"Spirituality has been shown to reduces stress, promote healthy lifestyle choices and increase our feelings of belonging to a social network -- all of which are associated with lower mortality," says Shah, professor of public health sciences. "And we're talking about spirituality, not necessarily religiosity." Shah defines spirituality as the beliefs and values a person holds concerning one's place in the universe and which reflect one's connections with a higher power and social and physical environments.
He recommends a balanced approach to material achievement, respect for the environment, volunteer work and caring for family and friends as individual measures to help with spirituality. On a community level, he recommends social tolerance, creating physical space for people to pursue their spiritual beliefs and fostering developments which promote a "healthy city".
Steven de Sousa
U of T Public Affairs