By Ph.D. Fellow., MSc., Licenced, Sidsel Bekke-Hansen1, PhD, MSc., Christina Gundgaard Pedersen1, Mikael Thastum1, Kristian Thygesen2, Søren Christensen1, Robert Zachariae1
1Unit for Psycho-social Cancer Research and Health Psychology, Aarhus University & Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
2 The Department of Medicine and Cardiology A, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
Patients facing a potentially life-threatening disease may experience a number of existential considerations and some may turn to their faith as a means of coping. Research distinguishing between religious-, spiritual-, and existential considerations among hospitalized patients in secular societies is limited.
To examine the prevalence of religious and spiritual faith and existential, spiritual, and religious considerations experienced since hospitalization among Danish patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS).
As part of the ongoing prospective study – The Cardiac Recovery Study, a total of 97 hospitalized ACS patients (70 male; age 28-76) completed a baseline questionnaire regarding denomination, faith in God, faith in a higher spiritual power, and experienced religious, spiritual, and existential considerations since the time of hospitalization.
The majority (74%) described themselves as Christians, 13.5% was atheists, 4.2% reported another denomination, and 8.3% did not know. A total of 30.2% reported having unambiguous faith in God, 30.2% reported a little faith in God, and 39.6% reported no faith in God. Unambiguous faith in a higher spiritual power was reported by 24.2%, 31.6% reported a little faith in a higher spiritual power and 44.2% no such faith. Although religious and spiritual faith was related (χ2=37.84, p<.001), 12% reported some degree of faith in a higher spiritual power but no faith in God, and 17% reported some degree of faith in God but no faith in a higher spiritual power. A total of 17.4% reported having had more religious considerations after being hospitalized with ACS, 10% had more spiritual considerations, and 30.7% had more existential considerations. Patients having faith in God more commonly experienced religious considerations after hospitalization, (χ2 = 15.67, p<.001), compared to those not having faith in God, but not more spiritual (p=.14) or existential (p=.79) considerations. Faith in a higher spiritual power was associated with having more religious (χ2=8.63, p=.01), spiritual (χ2=18.51, p<.001), and existential (χ2=7.62, p=.02) considerations.
The religious, spiritual, or existential considerations experienced during hospitalization were found to depend on the type of faith held by patients. This finding suggests that it may be important to differentiate between faith in God and faith in a higher spiritual power in a secular setting.