A new study has shown that spirituality can help teenagers cope with chronic illness.
Chronic illness can lead to poorer quality of life in adolescents. The research led by Michael Yi, MD, associate professor of medicine, and Sian Cotton, PhD, research assistant professor in the department of family medicine investigated how adolescents with inflammatory bowel disease IBD may use spirituality to cope with their illness.
Adolescents with IBD are at risk for numerous psychosocial difficulties, including increased mental health problems and social stigma.
In the study involving 67 patients with IBD and 88 healthy adolescents between the ages of 11 and 19, the researchers collected data on socio-demographics, functional health status and psychosocial characteristics as well as spiritual well being.
Personal characteristics like self-esteem, family functioning and social characteristics, like level of peer support, were similar between adolescents with IBD when compared to healthy peers, indicating that adolescents with IBD appear resilient, said Yi.
However, health-related quality of life was significantly poorer in general. On average, when compared to their healthy peers, patients with IBD were willing to trade more years of their life expectancy or risk a greater chance of death in order to achieve a better state of health, he added.
The researchers also found that levels of spiritual well-being were similar between adolescents with IBD and healthy peers.
Moreover, higher levels of spiritual well-being were associated with fewer depressive symptoms and better emotional well-being.
However, even though both healthy adolescents and those with IBD had relatively high levels of spiritual well-being, the positive association between spiritual well-being and mental health outcomes was stronger in the adolescents with IBD as compared to their healthy peers, said Cotton,
He said this indicates spiritual well-being may play a different role for teens with a chronic illness in terms of impacting their health or helping them cope.
The results were published in online versions of the Journal of Pediatrics and the Journal of Adolescent Health.