The relationship between religiosity/spirituality and mental health in gay Orthodox Jews

Erez Harari, Fordham University

Abstract

Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effects that religion and spirituality have on mental health and emotional well-being. Little research currently exists on the relationship between religion/spirituality and mental health for sexual minority groups. Gay men have higher rates of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders than heterosexual men. Cognitive dissonance theory would suggest that gay men who are part of a religious group which condemns homosexuality would be likely to experience distress over these conflicting aspects of their identity. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between religiosity/spirituality and mental health in gay Orthodox Jews. The study's variables were assessed using validated and reliable self-report measures, namely the Orthodox Jewish Religiosity Scale (Harari, 2007), the Intrinsic/Extrinsic Religiosity Scale (Gorsuch & McPherson, 1989), the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale (Underwood & Teresi, 2002), the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985), the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (Watson, Clark, & Tellegan, 1988), and the Brief Symptom Inventory (Derogatis, 1993). ^ Participants included 191 males recruited from the Internet via listservs intended for gay Orthodox Jews. Participant's ages ranged from 18-70, with a mean of 31 (SD = 10). A large portion of the sample (42%) completed their Bachelor's degree, while 20% completed a Master's degree and 20% completed a Post-master's degree. The majority of the sample reported being raised Orthodox (81%) and a majority of the sample reported being currently Orthodox (64%). Nearly a quarter of the sample (23%) reported having been involved in therapy to try to alter their sexual orientation. ^ Results were analyzed using Pearson product-moment correlations and t tests for independent samples. Religiosity was not found to be significantly associated with life satisfaction, emotional well-being, or psychiatric distress. Spirituality, while not found to be significantly associated with negative affect or psychiatric distress, was significantly positively associated with life satisfaction and positive affect. These results suggest that while gay Orthodox Jews do not seem to experience the emotional benefits of institutional religiosity the way the general population does, spirituality may offer an alternative strategy for experiencing these benefits.^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Mental Health|Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Harari, Erez, "The relationship between religiosity/spirituality and mental health in gay Orthodox Jews" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3544399.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3544399

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