Examining Whether Spirituality Predicts Subjective Well-Being: How to Avoid Tautology

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Abstract

Spirituality may help people to maintain a high level of well-being despite adversity, but several studies that claim to support this statement have used spirituality scales and outcome measures that have overlapping content. This practice seems to be widespread: In an exploratory survey of 8 well-cited journals we found that 26 of 58 studies used a spirituality scale that contains 25% or more of well-being items to examine whether spirituality predicts well-being or distress. These spirituality questionnaires would be more appropriate for use as indicators of the domain of quality of life called spiritual well-being. We urge researchers to only use spirituality questionnaires of which less than 25% of the items refer to emotional well-being—such as the SWB Questionnaire or the Spiritual Attitude and Involvement List—when investigating the causal relationship between spirituality and emotional well-being.

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