Assessing the Role of Race/Ethnicity in the Relationships Among Spiritual Struggles, Health, and Well-Being

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Abstract

A growing body of research suggests that greater exposure to spiritual struggles is associated with more physical and mental health problems. Spiritual struggles involve difficulties that a person may encounter with his or her faith, which may include having a troubled relationship with God, encountering difficulties with religious others, or being unable to find a sense of meaning in life. However, little is known about the way in which spiritual struggles may differ across racial/ethnic groups. The purpose of this study was to assess variations in spiritual struggles, health, and well-being among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. We examined two ways in which race/ethnic variations may arise. First, the differential-exposure perspective suggests that some groups may experience more spiritual struggles than others. Findings from a recent nationwide survey suggest that Blacks experience more spiritual struggles than either Whites or Hispanics. Second, the differential-impact perspective suggests that the relationship between spiritual struggles, health, and well-being varies across racial/ethnic groups. Findings from the current study suggest that when spiritual struggles arise, Blacks experience fewer symptoms of physical illness, less anxiety, and they tend to be happier than Whites or Hispanics. The theoretical implication of these findings is discussed.

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