Spirituality and religiosity in a palliative medicine population: Mixed-methods study

Clare C. O'Callaghan, Ekavi Georgousopoulou, Davinia Seah, Josephine M. Clayton, David Kissane, Natasha Michael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Spiritual care allows palliative care patients to gain a sense of purpose, meaning and connectedness to the sacred or important while experiencing a serious illness. This study examined how Australian patients conceptualise their spirituality/religiosity, the associations between diagnosis and spiritual/religious activities, and views on the amount of spiritual support received. Methods: This mixed-methods study used anonymous semistructured questionnaires, which included the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Scale-12 (FACIT-SP-12) and adapted and developed questions examining religion/spirituality's role and support. Results: Participants numbered 261, with a 50.9% response rate. Sixty-two per cent were affiliated with Christianity and 24.2% with no religion. The mean total FACIT-SP-12 score was 31.9 (SD 8.6). Patients with Christian affiliation reported a higher total FACIT-SP-12 score compared with no religious affiliation (p=0.003). Those with Christian and Buddhist affiliations had higher faith subscale scores compared with those with no religious affiliation (p<0.001). Spirituality was very important to 39.9% and religiosity to 31.7% of patients, and unimportant to 30.6% and 39.5%, respectively. Following diagnosis, patients prayed (p<0.001) and meditated (p<0.001) more, seeking more time, strength and acceptance. Attendance at religious services decreased with frailty (p<0.001), while engagement in other religious activities increased (p=0.017). Patients who received some level of spiritual/religious support from external religious/faith communities and moderate to complete spiritual/religious needs met by the hospitals reported greater total FACIT-SP-12 spirituality scores (p<0.001). Conclusion: Respectful inquiry into patients spiritual/religious needs in hospitals allows for an attuned approach to addressing such care needs while considerately accommodating those disinterested in such support.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Supportive and Palliative Care
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • communication
  • psychological care
  • spiritual care
  • supportive care
  • terminal care

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