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Religion, spirituality and belief: key points

  • Religion and belief can have both positive and negative associations with health.
  • Some attitudes and practices may have an unequal impact upon public service access for religious groups. This requires service providers to adapt their procedures and address staff attitudes and knowledge.
  • Gender roles and behavioural differences may be conditioned by religious beliefs.
  • There are associations between religion and ethnicity. For example among White groups in Scotland, Catholicism is associated with Irish or Polish ethnicity and the Muslim and Hindu religions with Asian ethnicity.
  • In Scotland, Hindus have the highest levels of wellbeing on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale, (WEMWBS) and the highest proportion reporting good or very good self-assessed health.
  • On the General Health Questionnaire 12 (GHQ12) a high score (a score of four or more) indicates the presence of a possible psychiatric disorder. The only religious groups with a significantly lower proportion of high GHQ12 scores than the Scottish average are Hindus and Church of Scotland. Roman Catholics are significantly more likely than the average to have a high GHQ12 score.
  • Mortality varies by raised religious group. Roman Catholics and people of no religion tend to have the highest mortality rates. People reporting being raised as Church of Scotland Christians show moderate rates, while Other Christians and non-Christian religions have lower rates.
  • There is a difference between the health benefits (or risks) associated with particular religions, and the general health and social implications of holding any religious or spiritual belief. 

Section Updates:

  • A review of this section was completed in September 2017.
  • The next review / update is due to be carried out by end June 2018.
Page last updated: 14 September 2017

© Scottish Public Health Observatory 2014