People who believe in a benevolent God tend to worry less and be more tolerant of life's uncertainties than those who believe in an indifferent or punishing God, according to researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital.
They urge mental health professionals to integrate patients' spiritual beliefs into their treatment regimens, especially for patients who are religious.
"The implications of this paper for the field of psychiatry are that we have to take patients' spirituality more seriously than we do," said lead author David H. Rosmarin, PhD, assistant in psychology at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital.
They come to the conclusion after collecting data from two separate studies.
One questioned 332 subjects solicited from religious web sites and religious organizations. It included Christians and Jews.
This study found that those who trusted in God to look out for them had lower levels of worry and less intolerance of uncertainty in their lives than those who had a "mistrust" of God to help them out.
The second study was of 125 subjects culled from Jewish organizations.
They were shown an audio-video program designed to increase trust in God and decrease mistrust in God.
Participants in the two-week program reported significant increases in trust in God and significant decreases in mistrust in God, as well as clinically and statistically significant decreases in intolerance of uncertainty, worry and stress.
"These findings...suggest that certain spiritual beliefs are tied to intolerance of uncertainty and worry for some individuals," the authors concluded.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.