National Poll on Healthy Aging Examines Religious, Spiritual Beliefs and Healthcare

The latest analysis from the National Poll on Healthy Aging conducted by the University of Michigan found that, among adults age 50–80 with important religious or spiritual beliefs, 70% reported feeling comfortable discussing their beliefs with their health care providers, however, only 28% wanted their health care providers to ask about their beliefs.

Overall, most adults age 50–80 (84%) said that religious and/or spiritual beliefs are important to them, with 71% reporting their religious beliefs are important to them (45% very important, 26% somewhat important), and 80% stating their spiritual beliefs are important to them (50% very important, 30% somewhat important).

Many older adults reported that their religious beliefs (39%) or spiritual beliefs (46%) have become more important as they have gotten older. Older adults whose religious or spiritual beliefs are very important to them now were more likely to report that those beliefs have become more important as they have gotten older.

Despite these statistics, among those who reported their religious or spiritual beliefs were very important to them, nearly three in four did not feel that their beliefs influenced their health care decisions, according to the poll. However, most respondents reported their beliefs are an important means of coping during health challenges.

All this taken together, the report concluded by encouraging health care providers to recognize the significance that religious and spiritual beliefs have in the lives of many patients, the potential impact of those beliefs on their patients’ health care decision-making, and the role that religion and spirituality may have for many older adults coping with health challenges.

For more information, see the UM National Poll on Healthy Aging’s “Religious and Spiritual Beliefs and Health Care” report here.