Unusual but sound minds: Mental health indicators in spiritual individuals


Miguel Farias, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3UD, England (e-mail: Miguel.farias@psy.ox.ac.uk .).

Joint first authors.


Previous research has linked certain types of modern spirituality, including New Age and Pagan, with either benign schizotypy or insecure attachment. While the first view emphasizes a positive aspect of spiritual believers’ mental health (benign schizotypy), the second view emphasizes a negative aspect, namely the unhealthy emotional compensation associated with an insecure attachment style. This study addresses these two conflicting views by comparing a sample of modern spiritual individuals (N = 114) with a contrast group of traditional religious believers (N = 86). Measures of schizotypy and attachment style were combined with mental health scales of anxiety and depression. We further assessed death anxiety to determine whether modern spiritual beliefs fulfilled a similar function as traditional religious beliefs in the reduction of existential threat. Our results support a psychological contiguity between traditional and modern spiritual believers and reinforce the need to de-stigmatize spiritual ideas and experiences. Using hierarchical regression, we showed that unusual experiences and ideas are the major predictor of engagement in modern spiritual practices. Anxiety, depression variables, and insecure attachment were not significant predictors of spirituality or correlated with them; on the other hand, the results show that spiritual believers report high social support satisfaction and this variable predicts involvement in modern spirituality. Further, spiritual practices were negatively correlated with and negatively predicted by death anxiety scores. Overall, the results strengthen the association between modern spirituality, good mental health, and general well-being.