From Barbara Bunting, MSN, APRN, advanced practice provider and supportive care team member at OHC

January 27, 2023

Reflecting on the recent holiday season and invigorated by a sense of renewal that can accompany a new year, some of us might find ourselves thinking more about our spirituality. Interestingly, our spirituality, or a connection to something bigger than ourselves, can impact our health.

Recent findings from research out of Harvard indicate that spirituality should be incorporated into care for serious illnesses. In July, researchers published data from their study analyzing evidence published between January 2000-April 2022 on spirituality in serious illness. They discovered that spiritual community participation is associated with healthier lives, including greater longevity, less depression, lower rates of suicide, and less substance abuse.

Spirituality is a broad concept and a personal practice. Some find their spirituality in religion or meditation, while others grow deeper spiritually through connections with family and community or by exploring nature. The International Consensus Conference on Spiritual Care in Health Care defines spirituality as the way individuals seek ultimate meaning, purpose, connection, value, or transcendence.

Most research on spirituality and health focuses on mental health. A link between spiritual well-being and less anxiety, depression, stress, and/or resentment for diagnosis with a serious illness seems plausible. But can spirituality affect what is physically occurring in our bodies?

In 2015, the American Cancer Society conducted reviews of published studies on spirituality and cancer patient health. Findings in the Society’s online peer-reviewed journal, Cancer, indicated that there is a significant link between religion, spirituality, and cancer patient outcomes. The analysis, which included data from more than 44,000 patients, revealed that patients with deeper spirituality reported better physical health and ability to perform daily tasks. Furthermore, they also reported fewer physical symptoms of both cancer and treatment.

When faced with a cancer diagnosis, some patients might draw on their spirituality as a coping mechanism to gain more power over their illness or derive a source of strength. In fact, a 2015 National Health Interview Survey found that 69 percent of cancer patients reported praying for their health compared to 45 percent of the general population.

Patients should be comfortable discussing spiritual needs with their healthcare providers. At OHC, we care for patients holistically, accounting for the whole person in mind, body, and spirit. For patients who feel they need an extra layer of support coping with the spiritual, emotional, and social issues that can accompany cancer, OHC offers a Supportive Care Program. The Program team includes advanced practice providers who are specially trained in supportive (palliative) care and work closely with patients’ cancer doctors and other healthcare providers. For more information on OHC’s Supportive Care Program or to request a second opinion with an OHC cancer expert, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *