A new study published in the January issue of The British Journal of Psychiatry concludes that people who have spiritual beliefs outside the context of an organized religion are more likely to develop psychological problems, drug addictions, and eating disorders than those who are religious. Of those who identified as “spiritual” in the study, 30 percent said they had used drugs — twice as many as the “religious” respondents. The study also found that spiritual but not religious people were more likely to suffer neurotic disorders, anxiety, and depression than religious people.
Head researcher on the project Michael King, who told CNN he has received hate mail over this project, wrote in conclusion, “People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder… (spiritual people) are about 77 percent more likely to be dependent on drugs and about 24 percent more likely to have a generalized anxiety disorder. These are quite obvious differences.”
Stanford psychological anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann explained that organized religion offers three benefits to churchgoers: social support, attachment to a loving God and the practice of prayer. “When you become spiritual but not religious, you are losing the first two points, and most spiritual but not religious people aren’t participating in the third,” she told CNN. “It is not just a generic belief in God that works; it is specific practices that work.”
According to a survey published by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 68 percent of the religiously unaffiliated believe in God and 58 percent say they feel a deep spiritual connection with the Earth and nature. In addition, 37 percent self-identify as “spiritual but not religious” and 21 percent of these say they pray every day.