“The epidemiology of lost meaning: A study in psychology of religion and existential public health in a Swedish context” by Cecilia A. Melder

Dear Network,

Cecilia A. Melder, a psychologist of religion from Uppsala Universitet in Sweden, has finished her treatise “The epidemiology of lost meaning: A study in psychology of religion and existential public health in a Swedish context”.


The existential dimension has gained importance in health studies in the last decades (Moreira-Almeida & Koenig, 2006; DeMarinis, 2008). Little Swedish research exists in this area. A pilot study was conducted in a suburban Stockholm, Church of Sweden parish. Research question was: “How does the existential dimension of health, understood as the ability to create and maintain a functional meaning-makings system, affect the person’s self-rated health and quality of life?” Theoretical framework included: health research focusing the existential dimension; public health through psychology of religion; and, object-relations theory. The mixed-methods format included semi-structured interviews, and surveys: 1) on meaning-making, and 2) Swedish pilot translation of WHOQOL-SRPB (self-rated health and quality of life including spirituality, religiousness and personal beliefs). Central results showed a positive relation between the existential health dimension and: overall ratings of physical, mental, social, and environmental health (p = .008); the overall existential health dimension and mental health (p = .008); and, social health (p= .046) and, the combined health items “How do you feel?” and “How satisfied are you with your health?” (p = .001). These results find support in WHO’s health perspective, and are linked to DeMarinis’ health dimensions and Winnicott’s understanding of potential space. Health dimensions: physical, mental, social, ecological and existential, are closely interlinked. The existential dimension is important through interaction with the others, and through its function as an autonomous health dimension. The study underlines the need for – and offers a culturally-tested method and model to explore existential needs in this secularized context.

Click here to download the treatise.