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Programs-Research Methods
Spiritual and Religious Variables

NIHR emphasizes the scientific investigation of variables that have historically been overlooked and understudied. These concepts are examined using rigorous research methodologies, in light of their relation to human health and well-being. Findings from our research are strategically conveyed and utilized by others through our research dissemination initiatives. Our primary emphases include, but are not limited to:
1.Faith variables - spirituality and religious beliefs and practices;
2. Psychosocial variables - humility, love, kindness, forgiveness, gratitude, hope, revenge, and wisdom, and
3. Health variables - mental health, physical health, and social well-being.

Faith Variables

The context in which we use the terms "spirituality" and "religion" in our research is often broad and overlapping. Generally, spirituality is characterized in our research under the broader context of seeking a relationship to something divine, transcendent, or ultimate. Religiousness, on the other hand, includes both personal beliefs, such as a belief in God or a higher power, and institutional beliefs and practices, such as church membership, church attendance, and commitment to the belief system of a church or organized religion. Religiosity, then, would imply the degree or extent to which one is dedicated or devoted to one's religious affiliation or religious beliefs. While spirituality would imply belief in or devotion to a transcendental reality (God, The Universe, Faith, Higher Being, etc.) which may or may not incorporate a formal religion as an integral part of one's belief system.

Due to the overwhelming proportion of persons in the United States who subscribe to Judeo-Christian religions (90%), research on spirituality and health has tended to emphasize the beliefs and practices of persons rooted in these traditions. It is not our intention to focus solely on these traditions. However, spiritual and religious beliefs of persons in the United States, which include Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists have been more readily documented in past research than Eastern, New Age, and other religious or spiritual movements. As this field of research progresses, we hope to produce research findings that are representative of the population at large with respect to as many domains of spirituality/religion in the context of health/well-being as can be measured scientifically.

Psychosocial Variables

Understudied psychosocial variables refer to psychological and social factors that have been traditionally overlooked in the mainstream of scientific research, yet are assumed to play a role in human health and well-being. NIHR endeavors to empirically examine such variables as love, forgiveness, revenge, humility, wisdom, hope, optimism, wisdom, spirituality, and religion. These internal mechanisms of the individual (i.e., thoughts, feelings, or emotions) may affect one's health and social well-being. Hence, psychosocial variables are thought to have an impact on an individual's life choices, lifestyles, and social relations. For example, psychosocial variables may impact marital interaction, religious beliefs, and interactions with physicians, family, friends, and care givers. Our work, then, aims to improve the quality and quantity of research addressing important aspects of people's everyday lives that affect their overall existence.

Health Variables

The umbrella term "health" used in our studies is intended to include a broad spectrum of health indices - mental health, physical health, and social well-being. Our examination of spirituality/religiousness in the context of one's health and well-being investigates questions such as these:
1. How does spirituality/religion impact mental health and well-being? What are the implications for improved mental healthcare?
2. How does spirituality/religion impact physical health and well-being? What are the implications for improved physical health care?
3. How does spirituality/religion impact quality of life, life satisfaction, hope, coping mechanisms, social support, relationships, and community well-being?

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